It seems like a long time in blogging terms since I mentioned Neighbourhood Planning.
I refer to it now because a planning application in my village has just been refused permission as being not in accordance with the made NDP. The argument in support of this refusal and against the officer recommendation of approval seems to be that the site is not an allocation in a plan that has identified more than enough houses on three sites and this one was suggested too late to be included in the plan. The officers suggested that the NDP 'made' about 8 months ago was 'out-of-date' because of the lack of a 5 year land supply (the relevant Local Plan was still at its examination stage.
The Government or those responsible for drafting the NPPF could not have imagined that it would take so long for Local Plans to get adopted and that so many NDPs would get their noses in front but have their authority undermined by the absence of a local plan and 5 year land supply.
While that is a general problem, in this case it obscured another issue which is the drafting of policy. The preparation of the NDP could be characterised in two important ways. The Government has given us the power to do this job so we will assume our competence to do it. Clearly we know what we want (that will be tested at referendum) and although we will not have the expertise to draft planning policies, these will be checked by the LPA and the NDP examiner.
In the event the expectations or aspirations sailed through the referendum although I an confident that I was the only person to check the NDP against the emerging LPA to enable me to vote on which would be better for the village as the 'development plan'. But the policies are pretty well as drafted by the parish planners. The LPA are now faced with having to decide whether applications are or are not in accordance with policies that do not say what they mean or (judging by the two decisions made based on the NDP) apparently mean what they say. The effect has been that a development on an allocated site has been refused despite some 'extra' housing being the most glaring example of ribbon development that conflicts with a criteria set out in the NDP. And the latest application appears to accord with all the relevant NDP policies but is being opposed because it was not chosen by the parish planners.
The plea from this blog is for LPA planners asked to supervise NDP preparation should ensure that policies are of an equivalent precision to those in plans of their making. The parish planners might be starting to realise that its policies should have been 'prescriptive' or 'proscriptive'. Policies can be 'permissive' but then should have the criteria that justify such policies being included in a development plan.
The attraction of localism is proportionate to the dis-favour shown to LPAs. However, it should not be seen as an alternative to local planning and LPAs and neighbourhood planners should be cooperating to a much higher degree that is reflected in many made NDPs.