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The future of neighbourhood planning

  • by JW

Reaffirming the status of neighbourhood plans.


The VGS was very much part of the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Planning process some two years ago:

Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan: formally ‘made’ – Vision Group for Sidmouth

The benefits of the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan – in short – Vision Group for Sidmouth

However, two years ago, the future for neighbourhood planning didn’t look very good, according to consultant Neil Homer:

On the face of it, the Planning for the Future white paper poses an existential threat to neighbourhood planning. The proposals for zoning, site allocations and development management policymaking all exclude neighbourhood plans, relegating them to nothing more than town and village design statements, which up until now have been too easy to ignore.

It is unlikely that the majority of professional planners, or their representatives, will lament the decline of neighbourhood planning. But they should be careful what they wish for. Neighbourhood planning was founded on the proposition that communities, if given the policy levers, would be more accepting of development. In our experience, it has been proven undoubtedly right, but too few seem to know that or to care. The thinly veiled attack on ‘experts’ in the Localism Act has not helped the reputation of neighbourhood planning. Nor have the resource constraints in planning authorities or the constant policy and development management system changes. And the costs and complexity of neighbourhood planning have been wildly over-estimated…

There is no question in my mind that neighbourhood planning has a lot to offer the new system, not just in design policy but in shaping growth and renewal and in determining how the trade-offs with protected areas should work in local communities. With Local Plans having to work to a 30 month deadline, neighbourhood plans could continue to share the load. I urge the government to revive the concept of neighbourhood planning in its white paper for the benefit of all.

RTPI | The white paper & neighbourhood planning

Writing for the Rural Services Network this week, Neil Homer reassesses the situation:

It seems the death of neighbourhood planning implied by 2020’s Planning White Paper – likely quietly welcomed by many in the planning sector – has been exaggerated.

The Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill currently passing through Parliament contains a number of proposals to reaffirm the status of neighbourhood plans (and ‘priority statements’) in decision making, which rural communities should celebrate. Eleven years on, that’s somewhat of an indictment of how this Cinderella of the English plan making system has been treated. But, let’s be grateful for small mercies and relate this new love for them to some of the other moving cogs in that system… 

Having seen how some rural communities have tackled the issues I am optimistic that a renewed and supported neighbourhood planning regime stands a better chance of planning for change in the future. For sure, more rural stakeholders need to get involved, notably land interests with more than just a focus on selling land for housing. And more than the usual suspects need to be encouraged to engage in steering plans. But with greater incentive, and a broader policy canvas to paint, this should be possible, and does not need tinkering with the process.

Neighbourhood Planning: Back to the Future – Rural Services Network