Protect neighbourhood plans from developers trying to ‘game the system’, MP says

LG 300414 Protesters outside Arun District Council's offices in Littlehampton just before the full council meeting protesting about the local plan. Nick Herbert MP. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140205-095817001
LG 300414 Protesters outside Arun District Council's offices in Littlehampton just before the full council meeting protesting about the local plan. Nick Herbert MP. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140205-095817001

Neighbourhood plans need to be protected from developers trying to ‘game the system’, the MP for Arundel and South Downs has suggested.

Nick Herbert called on the housing minister to commit to further steps to ensure that the plans, which parish councils have or are in the process of putting together, are not subverted by housebuilders.

Speaking in the House of Commons on amendments made by peers to the Housing and Planning Bill on Monday (May 9), Mr Herbert said he accepted why the Government had rejected his proposed ‘neighbourhood right of appeal’, but asked the minister to look at how neighbourhood plans could be strengthened.

Several West Sussex parish councils with approved neighbourhood plans have expressed concerns that developers are trying to get around them.

Mr Herbert has successfully persuaded the Secretary of State to call-in a number of these applications, but he believes greater protection for neighbourhood plans is needed, with developers looking to ‘game the system, bang in a speculative planning application in the hope that they will get it through’.

He said: “As the plans are voted on by a local referendum, it is very important that they are respected once they are agreed.”

Neighbourhood plans give communities control over where development can take place, allowing green spaces to be protected while other sites are earmarked for development.

But some developers have attempted to secure planning permission on sites that are not allocated for development in spite of the plans being agreed, or just before they are completed.

Planning minister Brandon Lewis said that he was ‘happy to make it clear that I want the law to be strongly in favour of neighbourhood plans’ and shared Mr Herbert’s desire to ensure that communities had the confidence to draw up their own plans.

Mr Lewis said: “I am happy to tell my right hon. friend that we will work with him and other colleagues to ensure that we give these neighbourhood plans the confidence and primacy that the Government always intended for them.

“We must ensure that neighbourhood plans are respected by the decision makers.”

Speaking after the debate, Mr Herbert said: “I will continue to discuss this issue with ministers and I am optimistic that we will see further measures to strengthen neighbourhood plans in due course.”

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