Sunday, 25 October 2015

One week left to comment on the Piddle Valley Neighbourhood Plan

The Piddle Valley Neighbourhood Plan is going through its final consultation with both local residents and the statutory consultees before it gets submitted to the District Council. 

The plan covers a number of issues that local residents thought were important – trying to balance the need for the area to have some growth, particularly affordable housing for local people, but not of a scale or type that will damage the beauty and attractiveness of the valley.  Another key issue affecting some local people has been flooding, so the plan tries to go one step further to make sure that development does not make the flooding situation worse.

The neighbourhood plan group has worked hard to listen to the opinions of local residents in pulling together the proposals in the plan, and has made a number of changes along the way, in terms of the sites that have been chosen that the way the new settlement boundaries have been drawn up.

They hope that the referendum will be given the go-ahead by next Spring.  For more information on the plan and process, visit their website.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A shiny, new Local Plan for West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland

The West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland Local Plan was finally adopted on15 October (at Weymouth and Portland) and 22 October (at West Dorset).  The new Plan replaces the previous Local Plans for each area, which no longer need to be referred to in planning decisions. 
The new Local Plan will cover the period to 2031, although an early review (by 2021) is anticipated to ensure there is sufficient ongoing supply of housing land.  This is critical, as without a robust housing land supply the Local Plan policies can be over-ruled.
It still amazes me how much time these plans take to get through the process.  Both Councils were working on draft plans, before taking the decision in 2011 to work together on a combined plan for the whole area.  The adoption comes 4 years on from the first public sessions on the issues and options, and the examination process took 2 years.  But at least, unlike some, the examiner concluded that the plan could be adopted.
This is good news for neighbourhood plan groups working in the area, who now have certainty on the over-riding strategy that their plans should align with. 
Alongside the Local Plan, the Community Infrastructure Levy has also been adopted.  However a date has yet to be set for when it will come into effect, and it certainly won’t be used until April 2016 at the earliest (whilst the various systems are put into place), and until then the Councils will rely on section 106 agreements to secure infrastructure funding where they can.
For more information visit the Council's planning policy pages

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Just published - the new Housing and Planning Bill

The new Bill on Housing and Planning had its first reading in the House of Commons yesterday.  So at last we have a clearer view of how some of the ideas on changes to the planning system that have been aired by the Conservative Party could come into effect.

Of particular interest to people involved in planning are the clauses on

Starter Homes - defined as a new buildings (or part of a building) purchased by a first-time buyer under the age of 40, sold at a discount of at least 20% of the market value, and sold for less than £250,000 (outside of Greater London).  Regulations can be introduced to cover various matters, such as adding other criteria on who is able to qualify for a starter home or specifying restrictions on the sale or letting of these homes. The regulations could also require planning authorities to require starter homes (either on-site or through financial contributions) when they are granting planning permission for certain types of residential development. 

Self-Build Homes - the basis of the changes here are to make sure that local planning authorities grant enough sites for self-build and custom housing to keep paces with numbers of eligible people on their register. The timeframes for Councils to do this will be set out separately in regulations.

Social Housing sales - introducing the mechanisms for affordable housing providers to choose to offer a right to buy to their tenants at broadly the same discounts as for council houses.  At the present time we don't know how many Dorset properties could be sold off, as not all social housing providers may want to participate. 

Neighbourhood Planning - to streamline the process for designating neighbourhood areas at the start, and for organising the referendum and 'making' of the plan at the end.  Details to be set out in regulations.  Neighbourhood Forums can also ask to be notified about planning applications in their area (this is something Parish Councils have been able to request for some time). 

Permission in Principle and Local Registers of Land - this section of the Bill lays the foundations for regulations to require planning authorities to keep a register of certain types of sites in their area, and for development orders to be made for these types of site (potentially through changes to national permitted development rights). The idea behind this is to enable small brownfield sites to be given ‘in principle’ permission for new housing (although technical details would still need to be approved locally). How these sites will be identified is not clear, but there is scope for the regulations to require consultation as part of forming the register. There may be more detailed requirements in the regulations on what type of brownfield (or other) sites will be suitable.  There is also the provision to have regard to the development plan – so, for example, if a site is allocated for another use, the 'in principle permission' would not automatically apply. The scope of these proposals could of course be widened beyond brownfield sites if this Bill is passed, and could also work for neighbourhood development orders.

The answers provided by the Bill inevitably lead to more questions, as a lot of the detail is to be fleshed out in the regulations, which have yet to be published.  The Bill may well be subject to changes along the way.  It doesn't include any mention of small site affordable home exemptions, which there was some speculation about following the recent changes in this field (which I should probably blog about in another post!)