Changes come to fruition
The changes proposed in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the Localism Act (the Act) are now coming to fruition.
The new policy strives to take the antagonism out of planning that was causing it to bog down in a litigious process.The objective is to make planning more meaningful to local people.
The provisions of the NPPF give communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and deliver the sustainable development they need.
Parishes and neighbourhood forums can use neighbourhood planning to set policies to determine decisions on planning applications and to grant planning permission for specific development.
This should shape and direct sustainable development.
The Act gives the legislative framework for the formulation of Neighbourhood Plans, which can have a life of 15-30 years. Local councils are to help and facilitate in setting up a neighbourhood forum; once the plan is prepared and is felt that it meets the basic conditions required, it is referred to an independent examiner.
This examination is to be a ‘light touch’ by written representations, with a hearing if the examiner feels it is necessary to explore an issue or to ensure that a person is given a fair chance of putting their case. If the examiner is satisfied that the basic conditions are met, he makes a recommendation.
The examiner can also recommend amendments to the plan. If the basic conditions are not met, the neighbourhood and council must decide if they wish to pursue a revised plan.
If the local council accepts the recommendations, it must then put that plan to a referendum for the local people to vote. A majority vote puts the Neighbourhood Plan into effect and this has a life for so long as the people in the neighbourhood feel it is relevant.
Last week, I attended a two-day training course for the first 20 potential independent examiners. I presented on the people skills essential to the delivery of the examiners, arising from my role as a mediator.
The course is organised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) in partnership with the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Planning Inspectorate, the Royal Town Planning Institute and others concerned with good planning practice.
At the end of the course the delegates were assessed and will only be appointed to the Independent Neighbourhood Plan Examiners Panel if they are successful.
The more I hear about the plans to radically change the culture of the planning system to make it more relevant to local people, the more encouraged I am.
I have commented repeatedly that planning needs to be delivered faster and at a lower cost to encourage more developers to deliver the much-needed buildings to help with the economic growth of the region and to create more jobs. If this works then it will be a job well done.
What concerns me is that there is a massive take-up of the formulation of development plans in the South of England but very little is being done in the North East, where only Alnwick seems to be getting its act together.
The first neighbourhood plan to be examined is likely to be the Eden Valley, Cumbria, and I wish them and their Plan Examiner every success.
I commend the system to all North East parish councils and would encourage those in urban areas to form Neighbourhood Forums and get on with the much-needed change in the system to help deliver the economic, social and sustainable change essential to the well-being of the region.
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Kevan Carrick .