I watch the “stumblings” over Neighbourhood Planning with despair. The challenge to the Gavin Barwell written statement (December 2016) i.e. that if there is a 3-year housing supply then a Neighbourhood Plan policy to curb housing permissions takes precedence, I understandable. In this statement, we have yet another example of making up policy “as we go along” but this surely can’t be right?
The whole purpose of the NPPF was to give certainty of policy direction and at a time when the need to encourage housing growth was not more urgent than it is now. Not only that but the appeal decisions seem so inconsistent and a cause for recent high level unrest with Tory Peer Baroness Cumberledge confirming that she is spearheading a legal challenge to a planning decision which undermines the integrity of the Newick Neighbourhood Plan.
The number of Neighbourhood Plans being prepared is significant, running to over 2100 applied and nearly 300 made. I am close to one where I act for a landowner and I can see the enthusiasm from those preparing the Plan. They require clear guidance to ensure the Plan can be practical and ultimately adopted (“made”). However, if their effect is fragile from an uncertain policy lead, at the highest level, then those looking to direct their time and energies into making a Neighbourhood Plan will be inclined to think twice.
Neighbourhood Plans were never properly thought through. They were conceived politically at a time when the message for growth was tempered by the promise of “localism”. But what is localism if it gets in the way of strategic growth needs? The placards around north Harlow suggest the idea of 15,000 new homes is not popular but the commitment of a new junction on the M11 rests on this level of growth happening and offering significant funds towards it. Indeed, the quest to provide new homes through Garden Villages suggests they are required to avoid the entanglement of localism. Their “out of my back yard” credentials have a political charm. Just a pity they may prove undeliverable without significant public subsidy for key infrastructure and “give away” land values.