How should the situation be dealt with where the local plan is reviewed after a neighbourhood plan is made?
Does the neighbourhood plan need to be reviewed at the same time? What would be the effect of the local plan reviewing settlement boundary policies after the made neighbourhood plan has already done so? Which settlement boundary policy would be the one that takes precedence?
Planning Practice Guidance makes it clear that there is no statutory requirement to review or update a neighbourhood plan (Paragraph: 084 Reference ID: 41-084-20160519). However the Guidance adds that some policies in a neighbourhood plan may become out of date if they conflict with policies in a Local Plan that is adopted after the making of the neighbourhood plan. Where such conflict occurs it is always the more recent plan policy that takes precedence and is used in decision making.
As part of the preparation of an emerging Local Plan the settlement boundary policies in a made neighbourhood plan may be reviewed by the local planning authority. They will probably be rolling forward their plan period by 5 or 10 years. As part of this exercise they are statutorily required to review and update their evidence base, including such matters as housing need and land availability. They might conclude that the settlement boundary in the made neighbourhood plan does not now provide sufficient land to meet the revised housing need. The outcome may be that they amend the settlement boundary policies in their updated Local Plan accordingly. Once it is adopted their revised policies will then take precedence over the made neighbourhood plan policies as they are based on a more up to date evidence base.
The Guidance also points out that where a policy in a made neighbourhood plan has been in force for a period of time, other material considerations may be given greater weight in planning decisions as the evidence base for the policy becomes less robust. To reduce the likelihood of a neighbourhood plan becoming out of date once a new Local Plan is adopted, the Guidance suggests that communities preparing a plan should take account of the latest and most up-to-date evidence (Planning Practice Guidance Paragraph: 084 Reference ID: 41-084-20160519).
Communities in areas where policies in a made neighbourhood plan have become out of date may therefore decide to update their plan, or part of it. A qualifying body would then make a proposal for the existing plan to be replaced by a new one. The process for the making of the replacement plan is the same as the process for the making of the existing plan (Planning Practice Guidance Paragraph: 085 Reference ID: 41-085-20160519). A replacement neighbourhood plan is again subject to an independent examination and referendum (Planning Practice Guidance Paragraph: 086 Reference ID: 41-086-20160519). However the neighbourhood area will already be designated, though the community may wish to consider whether the designated area is still the most suitable area to plan for. Neighbourhood forums will also need to ensure that their designation has not expired.
Neighbourhood Planning Consultant