I have hung rather a lot onto Greg Clark's "General Power of Competence" for local authorities, due to become statute in the forthcoming Decentralisation Bill, and I would sincerely hope that I am not wrong to do so. But only the other day in conversation a (very) leading property developer dismissed it as "smoke and mirrors", which I found a little alarming. I didn't argue with him at the time (well, you don't) but it got me thinking. Having managed to get a number of projects away through the principle that you - ahem - "fake it until you make it" (Paddington being a prima facie example of this) I am quite a believer in "smoke and mirrors" really. I guess any local authority worth their salt which can tell a good story, demonstrate it has the support of the community (and stakeholders and service providers), invoke its powers (planning and what-have-you) and - better still - offer up some land, has all to play for. Call it smoke and mirrors if you like, it would imbue confidence.
It might be helpful to look at examples of proactive local authorities already in action, even now (perhaps, especially now). Regeneration projects are still being delivered though PPP in places like Lambeth of course and another excellent example of a local authority playing in its assets to great effect is at South Kilburn, where the London Borough of Brent is currently master-planning an extraordinary turnaround.