Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017: A summary of the changes

The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017 (“the NPA”).  The NPA brings into force wide-ranging changes to neighbourhood planning, local development documents, compulsory purchase and planning conditions.
Neighbourhood planning
‘Neighbourhood Plans’ are plans created by Parish and Town Councils, and designated community groups known as ‘Neighbourhood Forums’, to aid local planning decision making within a relevant ‘Neighbourhood Areas’.  A draft Neighbourhood Plan must be endorsed through a local referendum and, once endorsed the planning authority decide if it should or should not be brought into force.  A Neighbourhood Plan which has been made becomes a part of the planning authority’s statutory development plan.  Applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The NPA now gives weight to Neighbourhood Plans in draft form once they have passed the referendum stage. A Plan may cease to be part of the development plan if the Council decides that it would be incompatible with European Union or human rights law – the only bases on which a local planning authority can decide not to make a plan.

The NPA also introduces a process for modifying Neighbourhood Plans which have entered into force.

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Call to end the green belt ban: Experts say the housing shortage is holding back Britain’s economic growth.

Britain should scrap its rules banning building on the green belt, a think tank has suggested. 

A shortage of housing was holding back UK growth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said.

It also warned poor skills and a lack of investment in infrastructure and research was hampering the UK’s productivity.

Among its other recommendations in its report, Going for Growth, were more toll roads, an expansion in vocational education and better provision of social housing.

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The Green Belt must not be sacrificed for housing

Next week will see the publication of yet another housing White Paper designed to “get Britain building again”. Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, seeks to succeed where all of his predecessors have failed and hit the targets for the supply of new homes.

He needs to do this within certain political parameters. Mr Javid may be under pressure from many sides to abandon protection of the Green Belt but he cannot do this without reneging on a promise made by the Conservatives in their 2015 election manifesto. Moreover, the Conservatives have championed the idea of greater local democracy. It would, therefore, be at odds with that approach if he were to force councils to adopt development plans they do not want.

The good news is that from what we know Mr Javid does not propose to go down either of these routes. He intends that existing Green Belt protections should remain in place. His White Paper will, however, reiterate the current position that green belt land can be developed in exceptional circumstances or when there is local agreement. It has never been the case that the Green Belt cannot be built on; but it should take place within very strict limits. The Tory election manifesto stated categorically “The Green Belt is safe for another five years under a Conservative Government”. They must stick to that.

Bromsgrove District Plan including 7,000 homes by 2030 adopted by Bromsgrove District Council

A LONG-TERM plan outlining how Bromsgrove’s town centre, villages and countryside will be developed over the next 13 years has been approved by district councillors.

The most recent Bromsgrove District Plan details how the district council intends to accommodate a projected increase of 7,000 homes and around 6,000 residents between 2011 and 2030.

Of these 7,000 dwellings, 368 have already been created, 99 are under construction and 953 have outstanding planning consents.

Green Belt land is set to accommodate 2,300 of them, pending the result of a Green Belt Review.

Alvechurch, Barnt Green, Catshill, Hagley, Rubery and Wythall have also been listed as sites for further development.

House of Lords urged to create more urban local councils

Members of the House of Lords are being asked to support radical plans to establish new local councils in England’s metropolitan and city areas.

The move is being promoted by the national body for England’s existing 10,000 local councils, NALC, aimed at strengthening local democracy and improving the take-up of neighbourhood planning, one of the government’s flagship localism policies which gives communities more of a say over where development such as new homes should go in their area.

Over 250 new local councils have been established over the last decade through a bottom-up and resident-led process putting communities more in control of their area such as local services and facilities, and better able to influence other public services and local spending.

Last year six new local councils were established in urban areas such as Ashford in Kent, Finham in Coventry, Kidderminster in Worcestershire, and England’s largest local council in Sutton Coldfield in Birmingham.

Local councils play an increasingly important role in communities especially in neighbourhood planning as it is local councils that are at the heart of and driving forward the neighbourhood planning revolution, with around 90% of the 2000 communities developing a neighbourhood plan being led by England’s most local level of democracy.

Green belt ‘betrayal’: Government abandoning manifesto by building on ‘sacrosanct’ land

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is under pressure to meet the Government’s target of a million new homes by 2020 and has given his approval for the building of 6,000 new homes on a Green Belt site in Birmingham. 

He said further green belt land could come under threat of development and claimed that where councils were “willing to take the tough decisions” he would “back them all the way”. 

 Mr Javid’s comments appear to fly in the face of his own pledge in July to guarantee the protection of the green belt.

Developers win High Court battle over neighbourhood plan

Developers have won a High Court challenge over a district council’s decision to make a neighbourhood plan.

In Stonegate Homes Ltd & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Horsham District Council [2016] EWHC 2512 Horsham took the decision to make the Henfield Neighbourhood Plan on 27 April 2016. This followed a referendum earlier in the month where the plan was passed with a vote of 94.3% of the voters.

The claimants were developers who were promoting a 72-dwelling site on the western side of Henfield. They have appealed Horsham’s refusal of their planning application for that site in November 2014; the decision is with the Communities Secretary for determination.

NALC demands a fair hearing for local councils on neighbourhood planning

The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) said today (18th October) that local (parish and town) councils were keen to embrace neighbourhood planning to improve their communities but were being put off as it was unclear what weight they were given in the planning process especially where there was no local plan or 5 year land supply.

Jonathan Owen, NALC’s chief executive, said to the committee: “NALC broadly welcomes the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which will address many of the problems parishes have experienced by giving more weight to plans earlier in the process and making it easier to modify plans and neighbourhood areas. 

“But we are very much concerned about the legal weight of neighbourhood plans as they sometimes appear to be ridden roughshod over by certain developers and not given proper consideration at times by other parts of local government. We want this bill to clear this confusion up.”

NALC believes the bill could be strengthened to principally accelerate and incentivise neighbourhood planning, as well as giving communities more rights within the planning process, improving financial benefits from development and further strengthening local democracy.

The Neighbourhood Plan Bill 2016 will speed up and strengthen the popular neighbourhood planning process.

Measures in the new Neighbourhood Planning Bill will support more housebuilding and provide more local say over developments the Housing and Planning Minister announced today (7 September 2016).

The Bill will speed up and strengthen the popular neighbourhood planning process by simplifying how plans can be revised as local circumstances change and ensure that plans come into force sooner once approved by local people.

Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell said:

The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that we need to build more homes and this Bill is the first of a number of measures to deliver on that.

We have already built more than 900,000 homes since 2010 and now this Bill will help speed up delivery of the further new homes our country needs and ensure our foot is still firmly on the pedal.

We’re also going further than ever before to speed up neighbourhood planning which puts power in the hands of local people to decide where development gets built.

Concerns that developers will submit applications before the Neighbourhood Plan for Falmouth is finished;

“But she is also worried that developers are rushing to get their planning applications in now, before Falmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan comes into effect, with designated areas for housing or other development, as well as areas that cannot be built on.

She said: “People are frantically putting their applications in because they want to get in before the Neighbourhood Plan comes into place, because that will be the end of this building.”

The impact of the Neighbourhood Plan for St. Ives on purchasers of second homes;

“The decision by St Ives residents to ban second homes has backfired as the housing market has slowed because prospective buyers feel “unwelcome”, estate agents have warned. 

After May’s referendum, in which 80 per cent of the Cornish town’s residents voted against second homes, outsiders have been made to feel unpopular and purchase enquiries have dropped by up to 10 per cent, it is said. 

The plan was put in place to prevent second home owners snapping up new properties. They are still able to buy older properties – but it is feared many second house-hunters are now looking elsewhere after not being made to feel welcome due to the public poll.”