Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 18, 2018

Labours “Claim” Evidenced Here

In response to our “West Lancashire New Local Plan-Explained By Labour”, Cllr John Hodson  whose concern for matters of planning principle is widely known, has written about an “Explanatory Memorandum To The Town And Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 No. 1244″. WLR wouldn’t normally publish this amount of legals, but with the proposed plan affecting so many residents in greenbelt areas, which we oppose, it seems we should let people know which hymm sheet Cllr Hodson and his Labour planners are singing from, perhaps ?

Dry stuff, but relevant to the local plan, its purpose is to make amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 (“the 2012 Regulations”) in consequence of some of the changes introduced by the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 (“the 2017 Act”).

The instrument prescribes the time period for review of certain local development documents. The instrument also makes consequential amendments to the 2012 Regulations as a result of changes introduced by sections 9 and 10 of the 2017 Act. Finally, the instrument amends the 2012 Regulations to remove the requirement for development plan documents submitted to the Secretary of State under section 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (“the 2004 Act”) to be submitted both in paper form and electronically.

In the Legislative Context, the 2012 Regulations make provision in relation to the local planning regime established by the 2004 Act, amended by the Localism Act 2011 and modified by the Housing and Planning Act 2016. They set out the procedure to be followed by local planning authorities (“authorities”) in relation to the preparation of local plans and supplementary planning documents, including in relation to consultation with interested persons and bodies and the documents which must be made available at each stage.

The 2012 Regulations have been amended by the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 and the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016. This instrument makes amendments to the 2012 Regulations to implement various provisions of the 2017 Act, including the power to prescribe the time period for review of local development documents (section 12 of the Act) and to prescribe the meaning of “corresponding document” and “corresponding joint development plan document” in relation to the Secretary of State’s power to direct joint plan-making (section 9). The territorial application of this instrument is England.

The Policy background, the “What is being done and why” review sets a period of five years within which an authority should undertake an assessment of whether its development plan documents, and its Statement of Community Involvement remain up to date. This will help ensure that plans are kept up to date.

Where an authority reviews a document but decides not to update it, they must publish their reasons. In the Housing White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’1, published in February 2017, the Government stated its intention to set out in regulations a requirement for local development documents to be reviewed at least once every five years (paragraph 1.8). These regulations set the interval as five years from the date of adoption and apply this requirement to development plan documents and statements of community involvement.

There is already a policy expectation, set through the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”) 2 (paragraph 153) and Planning Practice Guidance3, paragraph 008 Reference ID: 12-008-20140306 that authorities should regularly review their plans to respond flexibly to changing circumstances (paragraph 1.3). Moving this policy expectation into legislation will strengthen existing expectations, ensuring that all areas have up-to-date plans in place which address the needs of the local community and accurately reflect changes to local circumstances.

Currently there is no expectation that authorities must review their Statements of Community Involvement at set periods. These statements are prepared by the authority and lay out how they will involve the local community, organisations and other interested parties in the preparation of local development documents and determining planning applications. Requiring authorities to regularly review their Statements of Community Involvement will ensure that authorities have a clear and relevant strategy for engaging the local community throughout the planning process.

The proposed changes build on the report published in March 2016 by the Local Plans Expert Group (“LPEG”), a group commissioned by the Government to recommend measures or reforms that may be helpful in ensuring the efficient and effective production of Local Plans, and the subsequent consultation within the Housing White Paper published in February 2017. We held engagement meetings with key stakeholders regarding the proposals to set an expectation of reviews every 5 years from adoption.

Section 33A of the 2004 Act, introduced by section 110 of the Localism Act 2011 places authorities under a “duty to cooperate” with neighbouring authorities and other bodies when preparing development plan documents. The NPPF states (para 153) that each authority should produce a local plan for its area but authorities should work collaboratively to ensure that strategic priorities across local boundaries are properly coordinated. This includes working together to meet development needs which cannot wholly be met within their own areas.

Authorities can also choose to produce joint local development documents. The NPPF encourages such joint plan-making. The number of authorities that have opted to produce joint plans is, however, fairly limited. In its report to the Government in March 2016 LPEG’s recommendation 12 said “The Government should make clear that, where authorities in a Housing Market Area (“HMA”) have failed to reach sufficient agreement on meeting and distributing housing needs by March 2017, the Government will use powers to make Regulations to direct the preparation of a Joint Local Plan for the HMA (or a suitable geography such as transport corridors) within a prescribed timetable. Legislation may be necessary to this effect. Guidance would also be necessary…to guide the governance arrangements for such plans”.

The 2004 Act empowers the Secretary of State to modify a local development document that he thinks is unsatisfactory; or to “call in” a document that an authority is preparing for the Secretary of State’s own consideration; or prepare a development plan document that an authority is failing to prepare itself; or ask the Mayor of London or a combined authority to prepare the documents instead.

The 2017 Act amended the 2004 Act, giving the Secretary of State powers to direct a group of neighbouring authorities to prepare plans jointly, either as individual authorities working together on a joint development plan document or as a joint committee. The Secretary of State will be able to direct the area and subject matter of the document that is to be jointly prepared, and the timetable for its production. The Secretary of State may modify or withdraw such a direction by notice in writing to the authorities to which it was given. If an independent examination was being undertaken in respect of a joint development plan document to which the direction related it must be suspended as a consequence of the direction.

A period of 3 months is allowed for an authority to whom the direction applied to request that the Secretary of State withdraw or modify the direction. The Secretary of State may, before the end of that period, if requested to do so by an authority to which the direction applied make a further direction that (a) the examination into the joint plan is resumed in relation to (i) any corresponding document prepared by an authority to which the direction applied, or (ii) any corresponding joint development plan document prepared by two or more authorities to which the direction applied, and (b) any step taken for the purposes of the suspended examination has effect for the purposes of the resumed examination. This instrument prescribes the meaning of ‘corresponding document’ and ‘corresponding joint development plan document’ in relation to joint local plans prepared under direction by the Secretary of State.

A joined-up plan making process where authorities work together, and where key decisions are taken together, will provide communities with certainty, clarity and a plan for delivering the housing and other development and infrastructure they need. As well as this the Government indicated at the Commons Committee stage of the Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2017, the power related to joint planning is likely to be used only rarely and in reality be deployed after detailed consideration of the individual case, and used where agreement between authorities is remote.

The Housing White Paper clarified the Government’s position on Local Plan interventions, and indicated authorities would have an opportunity to put forward any exceptional circumstances before action was taken. Joint plans prepared following a direction by the Secretary of State will be subject to the same legal requirement to consult the public (including parish councils and designated neighbourhood forums) and other interested parties. Representations must be taken into account.

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