On 19 July 2017 two important reforms came into force relating to Neighbourhood Plans. The first means that a Local Planning Authority has to have regard when making decisions concerning valid planning applications to a “post examination” un-made Neighbourhood Development Plan as a material consideration.
The second major reform is that prior to a draft Neighbourhood Plan being made after succeeding at referendum, the Neighbourhood Plan and its contents must be taken as forming part of an areas Development Plan. This requirement only falls away if the Local Planning Authority were to decide that the Neighbourhood Plan should not be adopted. This means that your planning applications will be subject to yet a further level of consideration in terms of whether a proposed development accords or is in conflict with the aims and objectives of an emerging Neighbourhood Plan. Essentially, even though a Neighbourhood Plan has yet to be finally adopted post its referendum, it will be given equal status to other adopted and relevant Development Plan Policies.
This legal change to the status of un-adopted Neighbourhood Plans is a significant change that is now enshrined in law. However, this is not a dramatic change in practice as in our experience, Planning Authorities have for some time attached very considerable weight in the planning application determination process to the contents of an advanced draft Neighbourhood Plan that has been accepted through a local referendum.
The Governments Neighbourhood Planning champion John Howell MP said: “This is very good news. These changes come out of the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017. I welcome them and the contributions they make to Neighbourhood Planning. I am also pleased to see that the Government remains firmly committed to Neighbourhood Planning and is taking active steps to make them a success.”
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