The rising importance of neighbourhood plans

public-consultation-300x273.pngIntroduced by the Localism Act in 2012, the Neighbourhood Plan is still a relatively new process and its impact on the wider role of placemaking and housing delivery continues to be established.

However, a recent flurry of appeal decisions by the Secretary of State (SoS) for Communities and Local Government and a new paragraph addition to the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) suggests its increasing sway in decision making.

What is a neighbourhood plan?

A neighbourhood plan provides the local community with an opportunity to develop a vision for their future, including the preparation of policies and the allocation of land for development.

After a consultation period, the neighbourhood plan is assessed externally and is approved once it can be demonstrated that it gives appropriate regard to the strategic policies of the local development plan and national policy.

Latest neighbourhood plans:

The latest neighbourhood plans to have been adopted centre on Mid Sussex and include the parishes of Lindfield, Turners Hill and Twineham.

The Parish of Twineham (TNP):  Backed by 102 votes to 7 on a turnout of 50.9%.

Development overview:

  • A predominantly rural plan, which covers the period from 2014-2031 with a proposed review every 5 years.The 2011 Census showed a growth of 13 new households within a decade.
  • No specific housing site allocations within the parish have been assessed. Rather, all applications are to be considered on the basis of sustainable development.
  • Consultation feedback from September 2013 showed acceptance for between two and six new homes over the next 5 year period.
  • Live-work development in the Parish will be encouraged where suitable and appropriate.

The Parish of Turners Hill (THNP):  Backed by 325 votes to 58 on a turnout of 30.3%.

Development overview:

  • THNP will cover the period from 2014 to 2034. It identified a lack of housing mix, little movement within the housing market and a knock-on effect on the vitality and sustainability of the community.
  • THNP identified a need for an additional 48 dwellings.
  • The numbers will be kept under review at regular intervals to ensure that sufficient development takes place to meet local needs.
  • Development of the Old Vicarage Field and Old Estate Yard is proposed provided strict conditions are met. Together these two sites can provide up to 44 residential buildings.

The Parishes of Lindfield and Lindfield Rural (LLRNP): Back by 1888 votes to 92 on a turnout of 28.6%

Development overview:

  • The LLRNP covers the period to 2031 and stipulates that modest development proposals within the built up area boundaries of Lindfield and Scaynes Hill, will be supported.
  • The re-use of previously-developed sites will be encouraged, provided that the development is appropriate in scale, massing, and character.
  • It is assumed that the countryside policies of the Mid Sussex development plan and of the NPPF will continue to apply significant policy constraints to development in the open countryside.

Changes to the PPG and where does the neighbourhood plan stand?

With an increasing number of neighbourhood plans being approved and a third of Local Authorities lacking an up to date local plan, including Mid Sussex, how important are neighbourhood plans when it comes to decision making on large developments? Revisions made in February to the PPG suggest they are holding increasing sway.

A new paragraph was added to the PPG which provides guidance on how applications should be decided where there is a made neighbourhood plan but the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites.

The new paragraph highlights that where no 5 year housing land supply (5YHLS) can be demonstrated, and where the development plan is absent, silent or the relevant policies are out of date, then relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date and this includes those policies in made neighbourhood plans.  The presumption in favour of sustainable development comes into play and requires the granting of planning permission, unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.

It is in this situation therefore, when assessing the adverse impacts of a planning proposal against the policies in the NPPF as a whole, that decision makers are advised to include those policies in the NPPF that deal with neighbourhood planning.   One of which states that:  ‘where a planning application conflicts with a neighbourhood plan that has been brought into force, planning permission should not normally be granted.’

How Plainview Planning add value:

It appears that neighbourhood plans are becoming increasingly important, but in light of recent decisions at appeal we query why they seem to currently carry such weight in decision making than the inevitably more robust and holistic local plan. Most recently the SoS blocked a development of 120 homes in West Sussex because it was contrary to policies within the neighbourhood plan even though the council could not demonstrate a 5YHLS.

Nevertheless, there have been a few contrary decisions including a 110 home scheme in East Sussex that was in conflict with the neighbourhood plan, but Greg Clark concluded: “there is no evidence to suggest that early delivery of the site would give rise to any substantive harm or that the proposed development is so substantial that to grant planning permission would prejudice the neighbourhood plan-making process by predetermining decisions about the scale, location and phasing of new residential development”.

We are keeping a close eye on all such decisions.

At the moment engagement with parishes and emerging neighbourhood plans continues to be vital. If you need to ascertain the viability of your site or proposed development in line with emerging local policies then contact our knowledgeable and informed team of planning consultants to see how we can best assist.

About us:

Plainview Planning is a Town and County Planning Consultancy with offices based in Gloucestershire, London, Sussex and Essex.  Our dynamic, knowledgeable and innovative team provide expert planning support across the developer, householder and commercial sectors. If your proposed development requires expert planning assistance, contact our team via