How can you protect against unplanned development?

You can’t, not yet.

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Most recently, the Conservative MP John Howell called for a debate concerning unplanned development for housebuilding.

The debate took place on the 4th July 2017. Mr Howell wanted a moratorium on any new housebuilding in an area where a neighbourhood plan was being produced.

John Howell, MP for Henley made the following points:

  • Developers are targeting villages that have just started the process of putting a neighbourhood plan together, so that they can get in before the community can decide where it wants the housing to go
  • A neighbourhood plan can normally take up to two years to put together but in reality, this can often be longer
  • Mr Howell suggested that DCLG considered a moratorium on new housebuilding where a neighbourhood plan was being prepared
  • To prevent communities from cheating and claiming that they were producing a neighbourhood plan when they were not, Howell said rules would be needed that show that the plan was genuine, making sure that communities are allocating sites for development, not using the plan as a nimby charter
  • It could be done by strengthening the guidance to the Planning Inspectorate and ensuring that neighbourhood plans were given more weight when, for example, they included a list of sites or initial consultation had taken place
  • He also wanted a more radical, ultra-localist approach, ensuring neighbourhood planning groups could and should have much more say over the type of housing they allocated in terms of the number of bedrooms, and have some say over affordability

At the debate, the Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma said, “The best protection against unplanned development is to get a local plan in place. A local plan provided certainty for communities, developers and neighbourhood planning groups and removed the pressure on neighbourhood planning groups to fill the vacuum created by the failure of local planning authorities to keep their local plans up to date.” 

Sharma said he recognised concerns about those who sought to game the system and understood the frustrations felt by communities when plans were undermined, this was why the Government issued a written ministerial statement in December 2016 concerning an important policy for recently produced neighbourhood plans that plan for housing.

This set out the relevant policies for the supply of housing in a made neighbourhood plan should not be deemed to be out of date under paragraph 49 of the national planning policy framework where all of the following circumstances arise at the time the decision is made:

  • The neighbourhood plan has been made within the past two years
  • The neighbourhood plan allocates sites for housing, and the local planning authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites

Sharma added, “When the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 comes into force…it will ensure that neighbourhood plans have full effect straight after a successful referendum. That is earlier than at present, when neighbourhood plans only have full effect after they have been made by the local planning authority.”

He had asked officials to prepare the necessary orders to start this provision as soon as possible.

It was important the right balance was struck so delays in planning for needed homes were not inadvertently created delays. These matters would be kept under review.

The Housing White Paper sought views on what changes were needed to ensure that all forms of plan making were appropriate and proportionate. DCLG would consider how it could further speed up the neighbourhood plan process so that communities got the plans they wanted in place as quickly as possible.

He noted that more than 2,100 groups have started the neighbourhood planning process since 2012 and there had been more than 360 successful neighbourhood plan referendums.

For a bigger picture about this topic, you can visit the website ‘Planning Resource’ – Independent intelligence for planning professionals.

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