Cheshire East Council has welcomed the government’s move to bolster the status of neighbourhood plans in the planning process.
The recent announcement by housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell closes a loophole which had previously weakened the influence of neighbourhood plans and the ability of local planning authorities and communities to resist unsustainable development.
In future, planning authorities and inspectors at appeal will not be able to favour planning applications simply on the basis of a modest shortfall in a borough-wide housing land supply, where a neighbourhood plan is in place.
Where a neighbourhood plan allocates sites for development, and the local authority can demonstrate it has a three-year supply of housing land, the policies in the neighbourhood plan will outweigh any shortage of housing sites in the wider area. Councils should have a five-year supply of housing in place but policies can be deemed ‘out of date’ if they do not.
Across Cheshire East there are currently five neighbourhood plans in place but there are as many as 40 in the pipeline.
Neighbourhood plans that are already passed can be reviewed but the minister’s announcement, to be followed next year by the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, allows parishes currently drawing up their proposals to review their site allocations.
Councillor Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council,said: “I welcome this statement from the government. This is good news for this council and for the many hard-working volunteers who, for the benefit of the communities in which they live, have spent many thousands of hours preparing their own neighbourhood plans.
“This council believes in supporting grass-roots planning policies and the minister’s announcement means that where the council can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable sites – instead of the current five years, a local neighbourhood plan must be given every consideration in the planning process.”
Councillor Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for planning and housing, said: “This really is a game-changer for the whole principle of neighbourhood planning. It ensures that parishes with strong plans in place will not be susceptible to temporary blips in borough-wide housing land supply.
“This council will now work with those parishes with plans in the pipeline, to ensure a site is allocated, and also work with those with existing plans to make any revisions they wish to include.”
Cheshire East Council has just secured the backing of government planning inspector Stephen Pratt for its local plan, a blueprint for all future housing and infrastructure development across the borough until 2030.
Once adopted, this is expected to deliver a five-year housing land supply, a principal argument used by developments seeking to overturn planning refusals at appeal.