The Planning for the Future white paper published in August 2020, setting out the Government's proposals for "once in a generation" reform of England's planning system, has proved controversial. This briefing from the House of Commons Library examines those proposals and the other planning changes already made during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Documents to download
Neighbourhood planning (614 KB, PDF)
This briefing – which applies only to England – summarises the policy and processes around neighbourhood planning.
What is neighbourhood planning?
The Localism Act 2011 provided for a new neighbourhood planning regime. The Act allows parish councils and groups of people from the community, called neighbourhood forums, to formulate Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders, which can guide and shape development in a particular area. These plans and orders must have regard to national policies and conform to local strategic policies.
The draft plans and orders must pass an independent check. If they pass they must then be put to a local referendum. If there is a majority vote in favour, the local planning authority (LPA) must adopt the plan, subject to its legal compatibility. The Act contains a similar procedure for Community Right to Build Orders, which give permission for small-scale, site-specific developments by a community group. The government has emphasised that neighbourhood planning should not be a way to block necessary development.
The LPA has a statutory role to play in supporting neighbourhood planning. For example, it will organise the independent examination of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, Neighbourhood Development Order or Community Right to Build Order. This is to check that the plan or order meets certain minimum conditions. In the majority of cases, it will be the LPA which will pay for and run the neighbourhood planning referendum.
What impact has neighbourhood planning had?
According to Government figures from March 2018, there have been 500 referendums.
Government research from 2015 (using a small sample of neighbourhood plans), suggested that in areas with a neighbourhood plan in place, there was a 10% increase in housing allocations (over that provided by the Local Plan). Research by planning consultancy firm Turley from 2014 found that more than half of the draft plans published for consultation had ‘protectionist’ agendas and that many were openly anti-development. It also found that neighbourhood planning provided an opportunity for “meaningful” community engagement in the planning process.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government publishes an interactive map showing where neighbourhood planning and other community right uses are taking place across the country.
What financial support is available?
Government funding has been made available for local authorities and for parish councils and neighbourhood forums to help with neighbourhood planning. The My Community website sets out the funding available for 2015-18 and beyond.
In addition to this, in areas where there is a neighbourhood development plan in place, the neighbourhood will be able to receive 25% of the revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy arising from the development they have chosen to accept.
Changes in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 and Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contained measures designed to simplify and speed up the neighbourhood planning process. It also allowed for greater intervention by the Secretary of State in the process of making a neighbourhood plan. The Queen’s Speech on 18 May 2016 announced a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill 2016-17 to improve the process for reviewing and updating plans and providing a more transparent duty for the Government to support groups wanting to do neighbourhood planning. The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. It introduced a new procedure to allow Neighbourhood Plans to be modified and dealt with the situation where a new Neighbourhood Plan is needed but covering a slightly different geographical area to the previous one.
Changes to the National Planning Policy Framework
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was revised and updated in 2018, following a consultation.
One of the changes to the NPPF related to the circumstances in which a NDP can be relied on when considering planning applications which might otherwise fall within the presumption in favour of sustainable development. In the former Housing Minister Gavin Barwell’s written statement in December 2016, he drew attention to the frustration felt by communities that had worked to put together a Neighbourhood Plan – which would in other circumstances mean that planning applications conflicting with that plan would normally be refused – but found that the presumption in favour of sustainable development nevertheless kicked in, because the local planning authority could not demonstrate a five-year land supply of deliverable homes. The statement therefore said that (with certain other conditions) the Neighbourhood Plan’s policies for supply of housing should not be considered out-of-date if that plan was less than two years old.
The NPPF 2018 has thus been reworded to say that, for the adverse impact of development conflicting with the Neighbourhood Plan to significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits, one of the conditions is that the Neighbourhood Plan should have become part of the development plan within the last two years. The relevant paragraphs in NPPF 2018 setting out the transitional arrangements provide for a limited exception to the requirement that the neighbourhood plan should have become part of the development plan two years or less before the date on which the decision is made – until 11 December 2018, plans that became part of the development plan more than two years before the date of decision are also included.
What happens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
There is no direct equivalent of neighbourhood planning in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Some mechanisms exist in each area for the involvement of communities in planning: information about neighbourhood planning functions, where they exist, in the devolved administrations can be found on pages 13 – 14 of the joint briefing paper, Comparison of the planning systems in the four UK countries: 2016 update. These mechanisms use the phrase “community planning” or “place plans” to refer to closer working between communities and local authorities, rather than creating a new power to produce plans at the very local level, as in England. Information on community planning in Northern Ireland is available on the Department for Communities’ website. The latest information on community planning in Scotland is available on the Scottish Government website.
Other Commons Library briefings on various matters to do with planning are available on the topic page for housing and planning.
Documents to download
Neighbourhood planning (614 KB, PDF)
On Thursday 8 October, Bob Seely will introduce a debate in the House of Common Chamber on the formula used to determine new housing allocations in local areas. This is a debate determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
This note sets out the background to the Government's policy on freeports.