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Neighbourhood plan deadlines fixed

Words: Laura Edgar
New towns / iStock

After consultation, the government has confirmed that it will introduce time limits for decisions regarding neighbourhood plans.

Last summer, a technical consultation on planning was held, with the government seeking views on imposing a 10-week time limit on councils when determining neighbourhood plan applications.

In response to the consultation, the government has announced that councils will have eight to 20 weeks to make a decision, depending on the area involved.

For neighbourhood plan areas that follow a parish boundary, an eight-week time limit will be introduced and for an area where more than one planning authority is concerned, the limit will be 20 weeks. A 13-week time limit will be imposed on all other applications.

The government is also clarifying the information that must be submitted in a neighbourhood plan, including environmental, to ensure that independent examiners have all the required information to make a decision.

Housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “These measures will speed up the process, making it quicker and easier to get a neighbourhood plan together so that the views of local people are written clearly in black and white for developers and councils to see, and ensure that future development in those areas delivers the homes communities themselves want to see.”

Speaking to The Planner, Ann Skippers, of Ann Skippers Planning, said that the introduction of time limits is generally non-contentious.

“Possibly the biggest implications will be for local planning authorities who will need to ensure sufficient resources are in place to meet the new time scales and also perhaps have to consider further delegated powers to help achieve the time limits. I welcome the recognition that some area applications are more complex in nature and will take longer,” she explained.

“I welcome additional documents for the prescribed list on SEA (strategic environmental assessment). This mirrors existing good practice to a large extent, but will help to demonstrate SEA has been properly considered and add more clarity.” 

Several other reforms proposed in the consultation will not be carried forward, however. Existing requirements for applicants to publicise and then consult on plans six weeks before submission would not be removed.