On 12 December 2016 the Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell, issued a Written Ministerial Statement (“the Statement”) on Neighbourhood Plans. The Statement provides that “where communities plan for housing in their area in a neighbourhood plan, those plans should not be deemed to be out-of-date unless there is a significant lack of land supply for housing in the wider local authority area”.
The NPPF provides that where Local Planning Authorities can not demonstrate a five-year housing land supply (5HLS) of deliverable housing sites policies for the supply of housing are considered to be ‘out-of-date’. The Statement means that with immediate effect policies for supply of housing will not be considered ‘out-of-date’ in line with NPPF para 49 in areas with an adopted Neighbourhood Plan, subject to the following:
- The Statement is less than 2 years old, or the made Neighbourhood Plan is no more than 2 years old; and
- The Neighbourhood Plan allocates sites for housing; and
- The local planning authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites.
The Statement is clear that all of the above have to be met “…at the time the decision is made.”
This will mean that Neighbourhood Plans in local authority areas with less than a 5HLS but more than 3 years supply will not be regarded as out of date, whereas the Local Plan will be.
Barwell also said the government is offering the chance to those communities who brought forward their plans before the publication of this statement to review their plans. These provisions seek to give strength to Neighbourhood Plans (both adopted and emerging) and “protect communities who have worked hard to produce their neighbourhood plan and find the housing supply policies are deemed to be out-of-date through no fault of their own”.
The Statement has significant implications for development sites within areas with adopted Neighbourhood Plans in place where there is no 5HLS and will no doubt affect the future supply of housing, particularly in areas that need it most. As such the Statement appears at odds with the Government’s pledge to help boost the supply of housing and also at odds with the NPPF.
The Statement is a result of pressure from backbench MPs who are concerned that neighbourhood plans are being ignored because of wider local plan-making shortcomings. Given that the Statement is now a material consideration in determining a planning application it will be for the decision maker to decide how much weight is to be applied to the Statement, including whether it should take precedence over the express 5 year supply requirement in the NPPF. It is anticipated that measures will be brought forward in the promised planning white paper to formalise the changes made by the Statement.
The result of the Statement therefore is more uncertainty in the planning process. Whilst the Statement may result in more neighbourhood plans allocating small sites for housing to be able to take advantage of this new policy it may also lead to a more negative approach where plans are prepared in advance of up-to-date local plans as Parish Councils realise they only need to meet a 3-year housing supply.
The Statement is clearly intended to give fresh impetus to the Neighbourhood Plan process and will no doubt provide a level of comfort to communities with a Neighbourhood Plan in place.
The minister also announced that planning appeals involving developments of 25 homes or more in areas where a draft neighbourhood plan has been submitted for examination will continue to be recovered by the Secretary of State, for a further six months at least. This will further increase uncertainty for developers. As we have noted previously, there appears to be little consistency between decisions and it is difficult to predict with any confidence what the outcome of an appeal will be. Developers will have to plan as best they can. The advice to get involved in the Neighbourhood Plan proves at an early stage has neve been more appropriate.
For further information, please contact our Planning & the Environment team.