Saturday 25 April 2020

Arne's Neighbourhood Plan passes its Examination

The Examiner's report on Arne's Neighbourhood Plan has now been published.  The Examiner, Jill Kingaby, carefully considered the changing policy background, with the Purbeck Local Plan's own small site policy having been amended as part of that Local Plan's examination, and yet to be adopted.

The draft Neighbourhood Plan had included a housing target of 3 and 4 new dwellings per annum (ie 48 - 64 dwellings).  The Inspector did consider raising this to 4 - 5 dwellings (which was more in line with the 'strategy off' housing need based on the latest housing projections) but on closer examination agreed that the upper end of this range could be potentially unsustainable in such an environmentally sensitive place.  Her solution was to use 4 dwellings per annum (64 dwellings) as a minimum, but agreed with the Parish Council that, because of the highly constrained nature of the parish, this need not be made policy and would simply be contained in the supporting text.

The Plan (as modified) can now proceed to referendum - at the current time this will be just over a year away (May 2021) unless the Government revise its regulations in light of progress in the Covid-19 fight.  However, the Plan should be given significant weight in planning decisions during the interim period.

Tuesday 7 April 2020

Government update on Neighbourhood Plans and the current Covid19 restrictions

Update to the National Planning Policy Guidance confirms that examined plans who will now wait til May 2021 for their referendum can be given significant weight in decision-making.  The legislation could change to bring the date forward if this is possible and appropriate - but who knows where we will be in a month or so.

No clear guidance yet on consultations during the lockdown, other than being aware of the current restrictions and social distancing requirements.  Wareham Town Council (who were half way through their Regulation 14 consultation) are one such group affected.  A couple of groups in Dorset are just starting their examinations having finished their Regulation 16 consultations just before the lockdown (Milton Abbas and Shaftesbury) - the gorups are waiting to see how these proceed or whether they too get delayed, which will be down to the appointed examiners.

Tuesday 31 March 2020

Neighbourhood Plan Groups - grant applications should open after Easter

The Government's Chief Planning Officer has made clear that work on Local and Neighbourhood Plan's should continue under the present circumstances as far as possible. 

Linked to this, the latest announcement on the Neighbourhood Plan support webpage:

**Important information for grant and technical support for the new financial year (2020/2021)**

We anticipate opening the neighbourhood planning support programme for applications for grant and technical support on Monday 20 April 2020. Please continue to monitor the website for further information in due course.

Monday 23 March 2020

Purbeck Plan steps forward

Another milestone reached for the Purbeck Local Plan - the examiner's post-hearing note has been issued today announcing that subject to modifications she believes the Plan is likely to be capable of being found legally compliant and sound.  Key changes include the revised housing target (up to 180dpa using the new methodology, but with no additional uplift necessary), the deletion of the proposed Green Belt amendment at Wareham, and a modified approached to the small sites policy to ensure that developments are proportionate to the size and character of the settlement.  The full note can be seen here:
Whilst there is still consultation to be done, and possibly a further hearing session if necessary, this is certainly welcome news to all those that have worked so hard to get this plan through. 

Friday 13 March 2020

Moving forwards but hopefully before next century...

The Government published a paper "Planning for the Future" this week. 

What struck me as somewhat ironic, was the statement in para. 7 that says "In the Spring, we will publish an ambitious Planning White Paper which offers creative solutions to establish a planning system that works for the next century." I'd quite like it if the White Paper could offer creative solutions to get the planning system working better this century! 

The paper does make clear that the formula for calculating Local Housing Need will shortly be having an overhaul, so an update to the NPPF is definitely on the cards before the end of the year.  The paper says that the update will also make sure that principles of good design and place-making "to support the creation of beautiful places" are embedded into national and local policies, and will be checking whether the current approach to flood risk is robust enough. 

A useful overview is provided by Nicola Gooch here:

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Gladman not so happy with Schrödinger's cat

Press reports on Gladman Developments' disappointment in the outcome of some of their recent Court rulings made me take a look at a recently published judgement [2020] EWHC 518 (Admin).  This reiterates that, whilst the tilted balance and presumption in favour of sustainable development (NPPF para 11d) may be well-trodden paths in much of Dorset, the balancing exercise must take into account the development plan policies (and their intended primacy in decision making under S38(6)).  The decision maker can then decide and given reason for what weight these policies should be given, as part of the balance.

The placing of footnotes (and footnote 6 in particular) and stance on Neighbourhood Plans (as set out in para 14) both helped to confirm this approach.  Footnote 6 explicitly rules out the consideration of development plan policies - but is pegged to the end of 11(d)(i) and therefore does not apply to the balancing element of 11(d)(ii).  So by omission, policies in this Framework in that second part can and do include the development plan considerations.  Para 14 also talks about when Neighbourhood Plans should be considered under para 11(d) which would not have been needed to be said if all development plan policies were excluded in any event.

Interesting.  Well, depending on your outlook!  Looking at the bigger picture, it will still boil down to the decision maker's judgement on the whole balance, and with that, Schrödinger's cat always comes to my mind... and Gladman's too by the sounds of it.

Friday 28 February 2020

Revised plans for Wareham

Wareham are starting consulting on a revised version of their pre-submission Neighbourhood Plan today. As a result of new sites being found within the town, they no longer need to release any greenfield (and green belt) sites to meet their quota -
Policy H5: Westminster Road: has been redrafted and the allocation has been reduced in size (but including design elements from former policy LDP3). There is now no mention of land west of Westminster Road being added when the Neighbourhood Plan is revised;
New Policy GS3: Proposed Affordable Housing and Extra Care Housing, Bonnets Lane has been added - the 'new site in town'
Design policies have had a makeover, including a new policy on tackling climate change through good design.