The Government's solution to the so-far intractable problem
of Neighbourhood Plans that do not meet housing needs is here in
the form of a Written Ministerial Statement (WMS)
calling time on the relative certainty provided by the NPPF and
firing the starting gun for changes to the NPPF due with the issue
of the Housing White Paper early in 2017. Most Neighbourhood Plans
(NPs) will be going nowhere sensible, even more emphatically than
Nothing comes of nothing
The Courts have confirmed that the Examination tests for
a Neighbourhood Plan are a cake walk that does not require any
sensible relationship with strategic goals of meeting Objectively
Assessed Needs. NPs can be passed fit for service at Examination
simply having "regard to" national policies where it is
"in general conformity with the strategic policies" that
may date back to the 1990s and have little or no relationship to
the ongoing mess of housing delivery.
Equally, the ability to put NPs in place without any up to date
strategic policies – and the endless snakes and ladders of
the Local Plan process – creates a challenge for those
promoting NPs as a positive framework for local growth. Adopted NPs
may provide a warm glow that immediately fades as an absent
overarching housing land supply weighs in under paragraph 49 of the
The Government's response to date has been wholly political.
In some cases NPs have been effectively ignored; in others the out
of date NP policies have been given determinative weight, refusing
permission for 100 homes at Yapton in an area of housing need
with 3 years' HLS on the basis that out of date NP policies
should be given "significant weight".
"relevant policies for the supply of housing in a
neighbourhood plan ... should not be deemed to be
'out-of-date' [under NPPF49] where
the WMS or the NP are less than 2 years old
the NP "allocates sites for housing"
the LPA "can demonstrate a three-year supply of
deliverable housing sites".
Cue some authorities currently bobbing around on the Local Plan
process to ditch infrastructure planning, batten down the hatches
with a 3 year supply and encourage NPs through the process. Cue
some NP that allocate a couple of single unit sites being treated
as up to date even if there remains a housing shortfall in the
A far better solution would simply be to require the NP
examination regime to grapple with the unconstrained Objectively
Assessed Needs for their area and plan to meet an equitable slice
of them until the Local Plan comes along. NP authors are, after
all, engaging in devolved governance. With that great power comes
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