Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017: A summary of the changes

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Neighbourhood planning act changes
The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017 ("the NPA").  The NPA brings into force wide-ranging changes to neighbourhood planning, local development documents, compulsory purchase and planning conditions.

Neighbourhood planning

'Neighbourhood Plans' are plans created by Parish and Town Councils, and designated community groups known as 'Neighbourhood Forums', to aid local planning decision making within a relevant 'Neighbourhood Areas'.  A draft Neighbourhood Plan must be endorsed through a local referendum and, once endorsed the planning authority decide if it should or should not be brought into force.  A Neighbourhood Plan which has been made becomes a part of the planning authority's statutory development plan.  Applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

The NPA now gives weight to Neighbourhood Plans in draft form once they have passed the referendum stage. A Plan may cease to be part of the development plan if the Council decides that it would be incompatible with European Union or human rights law - the only bases on which a local planning authority can decide not to make a plan.

The NPA also introduces a process for modifying Neighbourhood Plans which have entered into force.

Moreover the designation of a Neighbourhood Forum can cease to have effect if a new or amended Parish Council boundary overlaps with the relevant Neighbourhood Area.  New powers therefore allow the authority to change the Neighbourhood Area boundaries, to divide a single Neighbourhood Area into multiple areas, and to consolidate multiple areas into fewer.  If, after using these powers, a Neighbourhood Plan relates to more than one Neighbourhood Area, then there is provision that the replacement of the Plan in one area shall not affect its force in the other areas.

Local Development Documents

The NPA requires each local planning authority to set out policies to address the strategic land use priorities in their area. Additionally, it requires the Secretary of State to publish guidance on addressing housing needs arising from old age or disability, and local planning authorities must take account of that guidance. This will be of interest to a number of our clients.

The Secretary of State is further empowered to direct two or more local planning authorities to prepare a joint development plan document and to require a local planning authority to review a local development document at times he specifies.

Compulsory Purchase

The NPA implements further changes to the compulsory purchase regime following initial reforms introduced inter alia by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  Changes under the NPA include a statutory right to take temporary possession of land and the clarification of the "No-scheme principle".

We have published a separate blog post summarising all of the changes to compulsory purchase since 2016.

Planning conditions

We have published a separate blog post commenting on the NPA provisions on planning conditions. This can be viewed here and should be of great interest to all those involved in the development sector.

Conclusion

It is a relief to see the NPA hit the statute books before the dissolution of Parliament for the forthcoming general election. The legislation continues the Government's drive to make planning more efficient and to enable speedier delivery of development. It places the emphasis increasingly on all parties involved in delivery to meet the Government's expectations.