The New Year begins with a host of new developments to look out for all of which are to be brought forward or implemented in 2017. In this update we deal with proposed changes to the law around planning and housing supply.
Written Ministerial Statement
In a surprise development on 12 December 2016, the Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell MP dropped a rather confusing bombshell in a Written Ministerial Statement on Neighbourhood Planning (Parliamentary reference HCWS346).
Paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites relevant, policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date, and housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. ‘Relevant policies for the supply of housing’ include the policies of an up to date Neighbourhood Plan. The situation was causing a great deal of concern in Government, that communities that had engaged with that neighbourhood planning process have had their plans diminished or set aside in cases, where the local planning authority has not met its obligations.
The key aspect of the new policy statement is:
“ Relevant policies for the supply of housing in a neighbourhood plan, that is part of the development plan, should not be deemed to be ‘out-of-date’ under paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework where all of the following circumstances arise at the time the decision is made:
This written ministerial statement is less than 2 years old or the neighbourhood plan has been part of the development plan for 2 years or less;
"The neighbourhood plan allocates sites for housing; and the local planning authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites.”
Of course this has major and negative implications for appellants proceeding on the basis that the local planning authority has only a 3 or four year supply of deliverable housing sites. Furthermore, it is significantly detrimental to any site not included in an allocated neighbourhood plan in those circumstances since the proposal is to that extent not in accordance with the development plan. It’s not clear about the status of neighbourhood plans that don’t allocate specifically deliverable housing sites in proportionality to the relevant local planning authority’s objectively assessed needs over a 5 year period.
The government will continue to recover planning appeals involving developments of 25 homes or more in areas where a draft neighbourhood plan has been submitted for examination to the local authority. At the time of writing, Planning Magazine is reporting that a number of major house builders have written to Department for Communities with a pre-action protocol letter threatening judicial review of the WMS.
Forthcoming Housing White Paper
At the same time the Minister confirmed that in the New Year a landmark Housing White Paper would be addressing the housing crisis and part of that will make further reforms to the planning system in this critical area. The White Paper is expected in February.
Housing the NPPF and saved policies
Gladman Developments Ltd v Daventry District Council  All ER (D) 158 (Nov) case confirms that decision makers are lawfully entitled and must ensure their grapple with the weight to be afforded to extant saved planning policies taking into account the plan-led system. ) It underlines that the Courts require the statutory development plan to remain the primary consideration for local planning authorities and planning inspectors.
Neighbourhood planning was introduced by the Localism Act 2011, and is an important part of the Government’s manifesto commitment to let local people have more say on local planning. With over 230 neighbourhood plans in force and many more in preparation, they are already a well-established part of the English planning system.