Neighbourhood Plans become more local
16th November, 2016
Last week, the High Court, in RLT Built Environment Ltd v Cornwall Council  EWHC 2817 (Admin,) ruled that a policy within a Neighbourhood Plan, which prohibited new dwellings to be used as holiday homes, was lawful.
A neighbourhood plan is a document drawn up by communities to shape development in their local area. It was one of the key tenets of the previous government’s localism agenda –putting power back into the hands of local people and communities.
In the UK, second home ownership has risen sharply since the 1990s – especially in rural and coastal areas. Critics argue that second homes distort the local housing market, making it difficult for local people – especially young people – to get on the housing ladder.
St Ives has one of the highest proportions of second homes and holiday lets in Cornwall and to address this, St Ives Town Council prepared a draft Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). It included a policy, requiring new open market housing to be occupied as a principal residence – which would effectively mean all new residential development only being available to locals or people moving permanently into the area.
The St Ives draft NDP was put forward to a referendum, in which voters were asked whether Cornwall Council (the local planning authority) should use the NDP to help decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area.
On a turnout of just under 50%, the vast majority (83%) of voters were in favour.
RLT Built Environment Ltd sought to challenge the making of the Neighbourhood Plan, by way of a judicial review on the grounds that there had been inadequate consideration of reasonable alternatives to the Plan’s policies – such as increasing the supply of available market housing for local people to buy – and that it was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is a right to respect for private and family life.
The Court rejected those arguments. In regard to the reasonable alternative point, the Court noted that the Directive did not require the local authority to assess ‘obvious non-starters’ – such as a significant increase in house building. The policy was drawn up not merely to increase the supply of housing for local people, but specifically to reduce the proportion of second homes in St Ives. Article 8 rights were sufficiently protected due to there being a legitimate public interest and a existing safeguards in place, such as the requirement for the Council to consider whether it would be expedient to take enforcement action (together with the possibility of an appeal) against any breaches of the policy.
The judgment will be a boost to local residents of St Ives and to residents of other areas especially those in rural areas affected by high numbers of second homes and highlights how NDPs can make a real and demonstrable impact on local communities.
For more information on neighbourhood plans or localism generally, please contact the Aaron & Partners Planning department.
Partner & Head of Planning
Direct dial: 01244 405538
Email: [email protected]
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