2nd November 2015
It is clear from the recent Housing and Planning Bill that the Government has recognised that the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) adoption process remains slow and it wants faster progress made.
This sluggishness is primarily due to equally slow progress on the adoption of Local Plans/Core Strategies. Another problem is that many draft NDPs are seeking to restrict development so are not contributing to the achievement of sustainable development, one of the basic conditions of the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG).
Greater powers for the Secretary of State
To speed up the process, the Bill is seeking to give powers to the Secretary of State to set deadlines and timeframes for the NDP-making process, and also to reserve a right to intervene. This right is not only where local planning authorities fail to act quickly enough in delivering NDPs, but also, potentially, where NDPs are not sufficiently ‘pro-growth’.
Recent judgements providing clarity
There is some clarity on the status, content and timing of NDPs provided by recent High Court judgements:
The influence of local stakeholders
More NDPs are likely to be produced as parish councils and local stakeholder groups realise the power they can wield in shaping development. But with this carrot comes a rather large stick - neighbourhood forums cannot use an NDP to stymie housing or other growth. In fact, the latest Government figures show that plans for housebuilding are more than 10 per cent higher in the first areas made with a neighbourhood plan, compared to those areas relying on the Council’s Local Plan/Core Strategy.
NDPs will continue to have significant weight and work with parish councils and local stakeholders will remain a vital part of site promotion. Most NDPs are likely to come forward in parallel with, or immediately after, adoption of the strategic development plan although earlier delivery cannot be ruled out. It remains to be seen whether the new intervention powers intended for the Secretary of State will undermine the very localism that the NDPs were designed to support.
For more information contact Andy Shepley, Associate Director, email@example.com or 0117 244 0517