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Neighbourhood plans strengthened by government

Published: Thursday, 15th December 2016

Protection increased for neighbourhood plans so that they are no longer deemed out-of-date unless there is a significant lack of land supply in the wider local authority area...

The government acted this week to strengthen neighbourhood plans in areas where the local authority does not have a five-year housing land supply.

This move was spelled out in a written ministerial statement on Monday and reinforced by Planning Minister Gavin Barwell the following day, during the report stage and third reading of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill in the Commons.

The minister told MPs on Tuesday: “In the written ministerial statement, I made it clear that from yesterday, where communities plan for housing in their area in a neighbourhood plan, those plans should not be deemed out of date unless there is a significant lack of land supply —that is, under three years.

“That applies to all plans for the next two years, and for the first two years of any plan that is put into place. That will give a degree of protection that has not been available.

“The message needs to go out clearly from this House that local authorities must get up-to-date plans in place to provide that protection for neighbourhood plans. I hope that that reassures people. As I said, I have written both to the Planning Inspectorate and to local councils on that issue.”

The Bill has completed its passage in the Commons and now goes to the Lords for detailed scrutiny. The government suffered no defeats on amendments from either opposition or Conservative MPs.

However Conservative backbencher Andrew Mitchell used the proceedings in the Commons to reprise his annoyance that Communities secretary Sajid Javid lifted the holding direction on the Birmingham Development Plan. Mitchell remains frustrated that sites in green belt in his Sutton Coldfield constituency are to be released for housing and employment as part of the strategy.

Labour has made it clear that the reforms to the compulsory purchase order regime in the Bill, while welcome, do not go far enough and wants a full scale review.

The party is anticipating that the Lords will take a critical look at the pre-commencement conditions and permitted development clauses in the Bill.

Read the Written Statement.

Roger Milne