Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood Plans and BGPC

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

A Neighbourhood Plan (commonly known as an NP), is a document agreed upon by the majority of residents in an area and identifies where housing and business development should take place. There are several criteria that an NP must comply with;

• Comply with the national development plan

• Comply with the local development plan (ours is called the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan). All local development plans must comply with the national development plan.

• Must be approved by the district council and an independent inspector and ultimately agreed by a public referendum.

• The plan is formulated by a ‘working party’ made up of Parish Councillors and local residents.

Once an NP is agreed, the District Council planning dept SHOULD refer to the document when making decisions on a planning application.

Is a Neighbourhood Plan free?

No, due to the complexity of the laws relating to planning, Parish Councils have to employ an external specialist to assist with NP’s. These specialists are not cheap and in Lincolnshire, most available organisations have a conflict of interest as they have also worked with thelocal developers. Grant funding up to £9,000 was available, however due to Brexit, European funding for development projects have been cut and as such tranche payments are available. The total amount is not guaranteed, therefore Parish Councils must be prepared to make up ANY cost difference.

Why doesn’t Bardney have a Neighbourhood Plan?

Between June 2016 and May 2017, BGPC carried out a lot of work looking into doing an NP. The Parish Council did the following;

• Met with external companies and carried out a tender process to identify a good working partner.

• Advertised on social media, the website and parish magazine asking people to assist with the NP. A few people stated an interest but did not take it further.

• BGPC held two public meetings to discuss the future of the area with residents of all the villages. At the two meetings people stated that if further housing development took place they wanted more shops, leisure facilities and sites for small businesses. This result was very interesting as it was exactly the same the requirements stated for ‘large villages’ in the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan.

In addition to this BGPC resolved for the Responsible Finance Officer at BGPC to take a more active role in examining planning applications. BGPC discovered the following;

• WLDC did not always notify BGPC of all planning applications, despite this being a requirement in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

• Responses to planning applications were not always being made publically available, despite this being a requirement in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

• Not all Statutory Consultees were being consulted over applications, despite this being a requirement in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990

• The majority of Planning decisions are made by an individual planning officer, rather than being referred to Planning Committee. The rate of referral to planning committee at ELDC and other district councils, is much higher. Many District Councils use objections from Parish Councils as a grounds for hearing at Planning committee.

• The Design and Access Statements included within planning applications often stated incorrect information. Planning decisions were still being made based on this information, despite the WLDC being advised of the errors.

• Nationally many NP’s are being legally challenged and therefore advised by consultant not to proceed until situation is resolved.

As a result of the above, BGPC resolved not to move forward with the Neighbourhood Plan, for the foreseeable future as it was unwise to give decision making authority back to the district council when they not currently making measured decisions regarding planning applications in our area.

But our area is missing out on Community Infrastructure (CiL) money.

CiL is paid out against all properties that fit the following criteria;

• Planning permission was granted after 01.01.2018

• The property is not for social housing purposes.

It is true that CiL is paid out at a higher rate to those who have an NP, however;

• Chestnut Homes and the Keir Homes developments were all approved before 01.01.2018 so no CiL applicable.

• Of the Lea Grove development, only 15 properties would be eligible for CiL payments.

• An NP costs at least £9,000.

• BGPC will receive approx. £321 per property in CiL money, with an NP that equates to £543. By not having an NP, BGPC is loosing out by 10% (£).

Therefore in order to recoup the cost of having an NP, BGPC would require CiL payments for 43 new, none housing association properties, to be cost efficient. Just to clarify that most developments do require on average 25% of social housing per development.

But other Parish Councils have Neighbourhood Plans

Some villages have them and some don’t. Ruskington Parish Council have also looked closely into the benefits of having a Neighbourhood Plan and resolved to keep a Planning Committee who report to full council on their findings.

Not all councils who have NP’s are happy with them. Brattleby Parish Council have reported WLDC to the Secretary of State for Local Government and Housing as WLDC repeatedly ignoring their NP. The Chairman of Brattleby parish Council claims that NP’s are 'not worth the paper that they are written on'.

Lea Council, outside Gainsborough, have a Neighbourhood Plan but discovered that WLDC had decided to site a new Crematorium in their area without public consultation or informing the Parish Council.

The NP at Fiskerton has been on going since 2014 and has caused much animosity between residents.

So, what are BGPC doing to support planning in our area?

BGPC have done the following;

• Designated a member of staff to take responsibility to look into planning applications and report back to full council.

• Have two external individuals who have many years of experience of planning issues who can be called upon to support the council’s decisions.

• Built links with external organisations in order to gain a better understanding of problems facing our area. This has been done Anglian Water and the Environment Agency.

• Looked closely at LCC Highways responses to planning applications and raised queries where necessary. BGPC have also crossed reference responses against other documentation.

• Built working relationship with the Planning Officer dealing with Chestnut Homes in order to immediately address issues regarding planning condition non-compliance.

• Visited WLDC and asked to see planning application files and was disappointed to discover that it did not correspond with documentation shown online.

• Obtained maps of utilities sited in the whole of the BGPC area. This allows a better understanding about which areas can be safely developed. A request for this has been made to WLDC and representatives of WLDC several times without success, and as such documentation was sourced from other organisations.

• Several letters of complaint regarding malpractice with planning decisions have been sent to the current and the previous Secretary of State for Local Govt and Housing, The Local Govt Ombudsman, Sir Edward Leigh, the CEO of WLDC and the Head of Planning.

Conclusion

After much consideration Bardney Group Parish Council has come to the same conclusion as many other parish councils in deciding that a Neighbourhood Plan is not the best way forward for our area, at this present time. A Neighbourhood Plan does not always reflect the wishes of those living in the area and the valuable funds required to carry out the necessary work could be spent on other projects.

  •  
  • pages: