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Is neighbourhood planning shaping better places?

Since the abolition of Regional Plans, neighbourhood planning has been high on the agenda, and the draft NPPF seeks to inscribe this in the national policy framework.

Following the coalition government putting in motion a seismic shift from regional to local planning in 2012 with the abolition of Regional Plans, neighbourhood planning has been high on the agenda ever since. The consultation draft of the NPPF seeks to fulfil this and firmly inscribe neighbourhood planning in the national policy framework. 

Community involvement in the planning process is key to shaping better places and delivering high quality development, however is this best achieved through the current neighbourhood planning approach?

As part of the re-write of the NPPF the status of Neighbourhood Plans is to be further elevated, they will now enjoy the same plan making privileges as Part 2 Local Plans: able to allocate sites, release land from the Green Belt (where the need for such changes has been established by Strategic Plans) and set out non-strategic policies. We are also now seeing Local Plans delegate the responsibility for allocating sites at settlements where there are emerging Neighbourhood Plans. 

If we are to create better, more attractive places and enhance our towns and villages for both existing and future residents, we have to ensure that we are locating development in sustainable locations, which are deliverable and will provide the greatest number of benefits.

If Neighbourhood Plans are to have the same functions of more traditional Local Plans, then it is essential that they reflect sound land use planning principles, and are based on robust evidence and robust decision making processes.

Without adequate resourcing, there is no certainty that neighbourhood planning is empowering our communities to make the most sustainable choices when allocating sites for new homes. We must avoid a situation where sites are selected based on personal opinion rather than sustainability principles and deliverability. This is hindered by the absence of funding for critical parts of the evidence base, such as Sustainability Appraisal.

The Government should therefore focus on giving communities the necessary tools to ensure Neighbourhood Plans exceed the low bar of the ‘basic conditions’ test, and plan for truly sustainable development that will contribute to shaping better places and be ambitious in delivering quality design, which will leave a legacy for future generations.

Further Turley commentary on the draft revised NPPF is available here. If you have any questions relating to the NPPF, please contact Tom Armfield or Niamh Hession.

16 March 2018

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