Policy and Legislation update Jan/Feb 2018

Posted on 8 February 2018 (Permalink)
New Year, New Minister, New Department

Dominic Raab MP has taken over from Alok Sharma MP as Housing Minister in the newly rebranded MHCLG. We are yet to see what the implications will be for the future of neighbourhood planning, although there is little indication that the new Minister will deviate from the localism mantra. New leadership aside, quite a lot has a happened since the last update:

Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2018

In the last issue we mentioned that the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations had been laid before Parliament, these were enacted earlier this month and regulations will come into force at varying points during the year. The regulations cover what could broadly be termed quasi-strategic planning and, as the title of the Act suggests, actual neighbourhood planning.  Whilst the strategic element is probably not as crucial for neighbourhood planners, it is worth noting that from 16th of January the Government can now, with caveats, direct joint plans between authorities and interventions by County Councils, thereby removing cases of policy duplication. We observe this may go some way to freeing up officers to support neighbourhood plans. What is perhaps more relevant for neighbourhood planners to note:

  • From the 31st  of January neighbourhood planning bodies will have to be notified directly by local planning authorities of planning applications submitted in designated neighbourhood plan areas which have a post examination plan in place and;
  • Local authorities will be able to modify neighbourhood plans or orders with the consent of the neighbourhood planning body if the modifications do not materially affect any extant permission or policies in the plan. Where an amendment will materially affect a policy or a permission, the regulations set out the process through which this can be done.
  • From the 31st of July local authorities now also have to set out in policy how they will fulfil their new legislative duty to give advice or assistance facilitate proposals for neighbourhood development plans and;
  • Will have to set out in their statements of common ground policies for involving interested parties in the preliminary stages of plan making.

As we have observed before, this is all designed to make the neighbourhood planning process stronger and more streamlined. Councils will now have to work out how their new duties will fit into their existing plan making process and time tables. For neighbourhood planning groups, it may now be worth thinking about how best to engage with Councils under their new duties, including setting up clear communication channels.

High Court Ruling on Written Ministerial Statement (WMS)

Richborough Estates Limited & Ors v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/452/2017

The High Court has dismissed a challenge by a group of 25 housbuilders that the “3 year housing land supply” WMS issued in December 2016 directly contradicted the National Planning Policy Framework. The WMS states sites within designated neighbourhood plans would not be subject to measures designed to tackle out of date local plans, even if the local authority as a whole does not have a five year housing land supply. This is good news for neighbourhood planning groups who are planning positively for housing. The judge agreed with the minister that designations in neighbourhood plans are boosting housing supply nationally. The judge’s decision may be challenged but we will keep you informed.

Strengthened powers to protect music venues and their neighbours

The "agent of change" principle will be established in the New National Planning Policy Framework, according to MHCLG. Developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any sound problems, if granted permission to build, and avoid music venues, community and sports clubs and even churches running into expensive issues as a result of complaints from new neighbours.

Harry Burchill, RTPI Policy Officer (England)