Little has been written from the practitioner’s perspective about the discourses of localism permeating local planning practice. Even less has been written about the tangible local economic outputs of such planning initiatives legislated through the Localism Act (House of Commons, 2011). As such, this paper fills a gap by reviewing the practicalities of the neighbourhood development plan (NDP) process; a localism tool heralded as a mechanism to allow local communities to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built. Reflecting on the 858 NDPs currently underway across England and Wales, the real drivers, practicalities and implications of this new policy layer are critically analysed from the practitioner’s perspective. The paper concludes that behind the rhetoric of the neighbourhood planning discourse is a covert political objective of enabling local economic development by facilitating private sector-led growth (through ensuring fewer local objections to development proposals and more planning approvals). However, quite the opposite, the paper reveals a dangerously misplaced emphasis on empowering localities through NDPs. This is because in reality experimental NDPs have a limited and uneven scope and at times may be inflammatory, increasing anti-development sentiments. Instead, it is proposed that an adjusted policy focus is adopted which facilitates genuine community engagement with the local development planning process.