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Neighbourhood planning under threat

August 13, 2020 10:20 AM

Many towns and villages across Wiltshire have invested a lot of time and effort and money in producing Neighbourhood Plans, which are supposed to help steer the way housing and other development takes place.

Now though the concept of neighbourhood planning in the county has suffered a double blow. Firstly Wiltshire Council planners have lost control of housing allocations at a strategic level, which means the balance of power tips towards developers in choosing which greenfield sites to build on. Secondly the government has decided that in such circumstances Neighbourhood Plan designations only have a two year lifespan - a shorter time than many of them take to produce.

A bunch of local councils led by Malmesbury Town have written to WC and to the local MPs explaing the problem and inviting something to be done about it.

Malmesbury have already been afflicted - see previous story.

Here's what they say:

.........................................................

The future of Neighbourhood Planning in Wiltshire

We strongly support the concept of Neighbourhood Planning, introduced in the Localism Act 2011, and each of the councils that have signed the letter to our Wiltshire MPs, has fully engaged with the process of creating and maintaining Neighbourhood Plans. Neighbourhood Planning has worked well, not least because of community involvement and engagement.

However, the future of each of our Neighbourhood Plans and the future of Neighbourhood Planning in Wiltshire is under threat for the reasons given in our letter. We are therefore writing to you, and speaking in public, on this strategic matter because the residents and communities we represent need your urgent support.

Specifically, we are asking that Wiltshire Council:

(i) Presses in public for an urgent government review of the recent changes to the NPPF that are undermining Neighbourhood Plans in Wiltshire; specifically:

  1. a. The dropping of the NPPF Section 14 requirement that, to be taken into consideration, Neighbourhood Plans must be less than 2 years old,
  1. b. Removing the changes to the definition of planning areas that in Wiltshire's case has made the whole unitary authority the planning area in place of the more meaningful North, South, East and West sub divisions, and
  2. c. Reversing the changes to the methodology for the calculation of land supply for housing which have so tipped the control of the calculation into the hands of developers.

(ii) Takes urgent, transparent steps to evaluate and address land supply issues, without simply filling any shortfall contrary to the provisions of agreed Neighbourhood Plans, and makes a clear defendable commitment to return to a sustainable 5-year land supply for housing by April 2021, without allocation from areas covered by made Neighbourhood Plans. This includes reporting fully to Town and Parish Councils on a regular basis on the current status of the 5 year by development and any issues arising that may affect the delivery and maintenance of the overall 5-year land supply.

(iii) Provides an immediate update on progress towards completing the overdue update of the Local Plan, followed by regular updates on subsequent progress, and commits to communicate consistently and evenly with Town and Parish councils and Neighbourhood Plan groups on likely local housing requirements and related matters for inclusion in Neighbourhood Plan development and reviews as the Local Plan progresses.

(iv) Provides sufficient professional and practical support to Neighbourhood Plan groups across the county to undertake fast track Neighbourhood Plan reviews as required.

(v) Commits to and then maintains consistent, timely and transparent communication on planning matters to all Town and Parish Councils in Wiltshire.

(vi) Commits to consulting with and taking into the account the views of Town and Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Plan groups in Wiltshire on any response Wiltshire Council might make to the White Paper 'The Future of Planning' published on the 6th August.

(vii) Accepts our invitation that both the Leader and Chief Executive of Wiltshire Council address all interested Town and Parish Councils on the above and related matters by no later than the 30th September 2020.

We look forward to your positive response on each of the above.