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Neighbourhood Planning takes a stumble…

1st June, 2012

Neighbourhood Planning takes a stumble…

Dawlish Town Council had been designated by the government as one of the pioneering groups of local representatives to be in the vanguard of the Neighbourhood Development Plan projects.

Chosen as on of the 17 front runners by Decentralisation Minster Greg Clark in April 2011, the Town Council received a government grant to help them put their ideas into practical effect together with practical and technical advice and assistance from their local planning authority, Teignbridge District Council.

This pilot scheme was heralded by the Minister as the opportunity for communities to have their say and benefit from localism and growth going “hand in hand” as well as creating conditions where communities welcomed development rather than opposing it.

Following an examination by an independent examiner (over two days in April) it has been recommended that the plan should not now proceed to a referendum. Under the Neighbourhood Plan Process, if the proposed plan is found to be compliant with national and local polices it needs to be approved by a majority of the occupants of the relevant neighbourhood covered by the plan.

Although the proposed plan was considered to be compliant with the policies in the new National Planning Policy Framework, the examiner expressed concern that it was not possible to demonstrate that the provision in the plan, for housing growth, was based on an objective assessment of housing requirements for the area. The reason for this was the difference in timing between the proposed adoption of the neighbourhood plan and the progress of District Council’s own strategic housing policies and local plan. The examiner felt that until the District Council’s local plan and core strategy were settled it was not possible to ensure that there was full conformity between the neighbourhood and district level plans.

This is likely to be a big blow to those communities pushing forward with neighbourhood development plan schemes where their local planning authority have not  progressed an up to date core strategy or local plan to the point enable them to demonstrate conformity. If local communities have to wait for the local planning authorities to catch up it is likely to lead to frustration and resentment as well as some anger where developers are able to succeed in obtaining planning approval for schemes which the local populace might not want.

Given that Neighbourhood Development plans are being heavily promoted by the government as a way to empower communities and to help deliver much needed growth, it is disappointing that more support was not given to enable the first of these Neighbourhood Plans to come to a successful result.

If you want to know more about preparing a neighbourhood plan for your area of on planning issues in general please contact us on 01244 405555

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