Government aims to make it easier to produce Neighbourhood Plans

The Government has announced it wants to make it easier for town and parish councils to produce a Neighbourhood Plan in news which may influence the Parish Council reconsideration of the idea.

Neighbourhood planning

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis launched a consultation last Thursday on a package of measures designed to give local residents a greater say over the future development of their area.

The new proposals include permanent changes to permitted development rights and conversion of empty buildings into new homes; relaxation of change of use rules for the High Street; reduced need for environmental impact assessments for new planning applications; and a streamlined process for major infrastructure projects.

However, of particular interest in Colnbrook right now given the Parish Council has put a Neighbourhood Plan back on the agenda will be a simplification of the process for producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

For the first time residents and individuals in businesses can produce neighbourhood plans that have real statutory weight in the planning system.

The Government says communities have positively embraced the powers granted in the Localism Act 2011 with over 1,000 communities taking advantage of new rights to produce a Neighbourhood Plan or Neighbourhood Development Order.  But it wants to make it easier for more reluctant communities to follow suit.

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, MP

Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis, MP

The proposals are designed to speed up the process.  New measures would:

  • Set a statutory time limit of 10 weeks for the local planning authority to decide whether or not to grant a  “neighbourhood area” designation applied for by a parish or town council.  Government statistics show currently requests are taking between 45 and 4005 to approve.
  • Remove the minimum 6-week consultation and publicity period for parish and town councils to tell residents about the new plan.  Instead they would be asked to provide a statement detailing who has been consulted, and to confirm that comments received have been considered in developing the final Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Require those preparing a Neighbourhood Plan to consult landowners to avoid placing unrealistic pressures on the cost and deliverability of a Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Clarify (and simplify) the environmental information that should be submitted with a neighbourhood plan

When the Parish dropped its Neighbourhood Plan eighteen months ago it was partly on grounds of the cost of developing a plan through to a referendum.  The changes, if approved, could significantly reduce the burden.

The consultation closes on September 26 and submissions can be made online.

The Government says it would also like to hear views on what further steps it could take to encourage more communities to take up their right to produce a neighbourhood plan.

Following the consultation the Government says it may consider making changes to funding for local planning authority support for neighbourhood planning.

A working party comprising Cllrs Akram, Cheema, Laxman, MacDougald and Smith is considering a Colnbrook Neighbourhood Plan but no future meetings have currently been made public.



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