Gravityscan Badge Prematurity - the elephant in the Neighbourhood Planning room — Alrewas Neighbourhood Plan

Prematurity – the elephant in the Neighbourhood Planning room

Neil Homer, a member of the LinkedIn Neighbourhood Planning forum has just posted the following:

Simon Killane started a thread recently on the NP Forum of LinkedIn which related his experience at Malmesbury, where an appeal decision failed to offer any real weight or support to that town's fine work on its NDP.

Earlier today, another parish council that has made even further progress on its NDP heard that this work counted for nothing in the eyes of another inspector allowing an appeal on a site contrary to all previous sound development plan policy, and with acknowledged design weaknesses, purely on land supply grounds.

In every single one of the twenty or so NDPs I'm helping in the South East there is no up-to-date plan, no or a very tight 5 year housing land supply and significant development pressures.

These circumstances are driving local communities to attempt to exert some kind of control through an NDP. In most, and probably all of them soon if this trend becomes greater, developers are actively seeking to pre-empt the NDPs for fear of their schemes not winning support.

Not a single one of these communities is what I would describe as NIMBY. Right now, none of the LPAs in these areas has any intention of dissuading pre-emptive applications, let alone threatening to use prematurity as a reason for refusal. None want to challenge the conventional view on prematurity, which predates NDPs by a few years. And nor will they if inspectors cannot see any difference between the process and product of an NDP and Local Plan and if they fear costs being awarded against them when budgets are so stretched.

In my view, this is the single most significant threat to Neighbourhood Planning in these crucial early days. Ok, so not all NDPs are intending to allocate land, but many are and they also want to leverage the value of development and CIL into their local communities.

If inspectors' current attitude, led from above, does not change, then many NDPs wont be worth the paper they're written on. So, DCLG MUST issue urgent guidance to inspectors and LPAs on this, along the following lines:

  1. Any NDP that has reached at least Pre-Sub stage should carry significant weight and prematurity will be a legitimate reason for refusal if:- the planning application has been made since the application to designate the Neighbourhood Area was made;- the application is for a scheme of a type and scale that would fall within the scope of an NDP to consider for allocation or control; and- the parish council/forum is committed to a project plan showing its expected dates to submit, examine and put to referendum its NDP, which is supported by the LPA.
  2. The weight of this reason will be greater if the NDP has reached Submission or Examination stage where the LPA has agreed general conformity and where clear support from the local community can be evidenced.
  3. Irrespective of what stage the NDP has reached, the provisions of NPPF para 49 on the five year supply presumption should not apply if the Neighbourhood Area has been designated, there is a sound project plan and if the application is being promoted primarily on land supply grounds when it would normally be contrary to the development plan.

None of these suggestions will threaten major home building proposals in the current market, they will simply provide local communities with a little more breathing space to prepare their NDPs positively. This should then create exactly the incentives the Government wanted in encouraging communities to see development as a positive local benefit.

Leaving the system as it is will have exactly the reverse effect. What a missed opportunity.

via Prematurity - the elephant in the Neighbourhood Planning room | LinkedIn.

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