Implementation of neighbourhood planning provisions in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill
The Neighbourhood Planning Bill contains provisions to strengthen neighbourhood planning. The government wishes to take account of well-advanced neighbourhood plans by giving neighbourhood plans full force as soon as they have passed referendum. The Bill introduces a process to allow the modification of neighbourhood plans and facilitates the modification of neighbourhood areas where a neighbourhood plan has already been made in relation to that area.
Detailed regulations will be required to implement the neighbourhood planning measures. The government consulted on these proposed regulations covering four areas:
The detailed procedures for modifying neighbourhood plans
Modifying designated neighbourhood areas where a neighbourhood plan has already been made in relation to that area
A requirement for local planning authorities to review their Statements of Community Involvement at regular intervals
A requirement for local planning authorities to publish their policies on the advice and assistance they will give to neighbourhood planning groups
There was ‘overwhelming’ support for all four proposals. The Government has decided to implement all four proposals as set out in the consultation. Of chief interest to house builders will be the decision by the Government that ‘significant’ modifications to a made neighbourhood plan may now be made through a streamlined procedure involving an examiner considering ‘paper-based’ submissions. A made neighbourhood plan will also remain in force even where the boundaries of the neighbourhood area are amended or a new neighbourhood area is designated.
The Government has also re-stated its commitment to financially resource any additional costs to local authorities that result from the new statutory obligations.
Improving the use of planning conditions
The Government has responded to its consultation on improving the use of planning conditions. It was concerned that too many overly restrictive and unnecessary conditions are routinely attached to panning permissions, with little regard given to the additional costs and delays. The Government has decided to implement all its proposals, with some amendments, despite opposition from local authorities.
The Government has decided that pre-commencement conditions can only be used with the agreement of the applicant. This clarifies existing best practice already articulated in the Planning Practice Guidance. By introducing a requirement for the local authority to seek the agreement of the applicant the Government is placing best-practice on a statutory footing.
The Government has rejected the proposal of a dispute resolution service as an alternative. It concluded that this would be ineffective as local authorities might merely rely on this to avoid meaningful engagement early in the application process.
Default period after which an applicant’s agreement would be deemed to be given
If the local authority communicates to the applicant its intention to impose a pre-commencement condition, a set period of time needs to be established to allow the applicant to agree to that proposed pre-commencement condition. The Government will set the default period to ten working days.
Prohibiting specific types of planning conditions
The Government has decided that six types of conditions (referred to in Table 1 of the consultation document) will be prohibited by legislation. These conditions do not meet the six policy tests set out in paragraph 206 of the NPPF. These are:
Conditions which unreasonably impact on the deliverability of a development – e.g. disproportionate financial burden;
Conditions which reserve outline application details;
Conditions which require the development to be carried out in its entirety;
Conditions which duplicate a requirement for compliance with other regulatory requirements – e.g. building regulations;
Conditions requiring land to be given up;
Positively worded conditions requiring payment of money or other consideration.
There are, nevertheless, various exceptions and exemptions under these six headings that members will need to be aware of.
The Government has decided not to extend this list of prohibited conditions, but will keep this matter under review.
James Stevens, Strategic Planner
Home Builders Federation
London, SE1 9PL
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