Neighbourhood Planning is a key component of the Localism Act 2011, and has been operating in England for over two years.
Speaking in July 2014, Planning Minister Nick Boles described it as “a powerful set of tools for local people to get the right types of development for their community, whilst also planning positively to support strategic development needs”.
Enthusiastic Ministers are supported by a dedicated civil servant team focussed on maximising the use of Neighbourhood Plans across the country. Progress has been rapid, and there are now nearly 1,200 designated Neighbourhoods in England.
However, the actual number of ‘made’ Neighbourhood Plans is still relatively small – 29 as at October 2014. There are also practical problems with the new system, relating particularly to:
• Boundary definition;
• A need for clearer central government guidance;
• Delays in responding to initial designation requests;
• Lack of enthusiasm in some areas to progress the plan, even where the area is designated
Aspects of this are proposed to be addressed through new streamlined procedures, however there have also been legal challenges by developers, suggesting that the new system may be affecting housing growth.
The most significant relates to the Tattenhall Neighbourhood Plan where the developer’s concerns were all dismissed. The judgment makes it clear that a Neighbourhood Plan must be in general conformity with strategic policies, even if they are outdated. It also highlights the differences in the roles of Neighbourhood Plan and Local Plan Examiners.
Recent Appeals have also reinforced pre-eminence of Neighbourhood Plans.
There are clearly tensions between Growth and Localism, being brought into focus through the Neighbourhood Planning system. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, particularly once the dust settles after the 2015 General Election.
If you would like to know more about Neighbourhood Plans, please contact:
Nigel Hawkey/John Foddy – firstname.lastname@example.org