Last week the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) published an ‘Impact Asessment’ on Neighbourhood Plans and the Community Right to Build. The document is a normal part of the legislative process, and seeks to quantify the likely impact of Neighbourhood Plans and the CRTB – how much they will cost to set up and administer, how much money they will save from the public purse, how much new development will be facilitated. The authors admit they have ‘no robust evidence of what the take-up of Neighbourhood Planning will be’, so the commentary is probably of more immediate interest than the predictions of how many additional homes the initiatives will create.
Like the Bill itself, the Impact Assessment positions the CRTB as a streamlined version of a Neighbourhood Plan, and we get the clearest picture yet of what these will entail:
A neighbourhood plan can set out clearly the nature of the development that is and is not anticipated, and where a development proposal is shown to be in general conformity with that neighbourhood development order, planning permission is automatically granted without the need for a planning application. With specific regard to housing, a neighbourhood plan would be able to identify the specific site or broad location, specify the form, size, type and design of new housing.
Note that the Neighbourhood Plan must also be ‘in general conformity’ with national planning policy and ‘strategic elements of the local development plan’, including ‘the scale (and broad location) of housing’. As reported in a previous post it is again stressed that:
A neighbourhood plan will only be able to advocate an equal or greater quantity of growth in housing or economic development than is established in the development plan.
And we are reminded that the new Community Infrastructure Levy and New Homes Bonuses will be used as additional incentives to encourage communites to demand more, not less development. The paper predicts that even developers will enjoy benefits under the initiative, so much so that they might even instigate and encourage Neighbourhodd Plans as an easy alternative to a conventional planning application.
If all this actually works as the government intends, it seems that those who trailed the Neighbourhood Plan initiative as a ‘Nimby’s charter’ will turn out to have been quite wide of the mark – or maybe they can reasonably claim to have positively influenced the policy as it has emerged…perhaps to the point where the opposite criticism could be levelled: is there really enough power devolved to the local community in the Neighbourhood Plan process to make it worth the hassle? Those sceptical commentators might now argue that if it’s not a Nimby Charter, what’s really the point?!
We don’t learn much more about the CRTB (pp. The CLG predicts that most schemes will be of 5 to 10 homes, and estimates that a CRTB Order will cost its promoters around £40,000 (compared with £17,000-63,000 for a Neighbourhood Plan). There is a little more detail on the mechanics of the thing:
On receipt of an application for a Community Right to Build Order, local planning authorities will need to confirm that the application is valid, including that it is from a community group, it does not cover excluded development (e.g. which would require an Environmental Impact Assessment) and is within acceptable development thresholds (i.e. not exceeding 10 per cent over 10 years).
Valid Community Right to Build Order applications will then be assessed by an independent examiner, nominated by the community organisation promoting the proposal, in agreement with the local planning authority, and appointed by the authority. The independent examiner will assess:
Whether the proposal is against national policy
Whether the proposal is in general conformity with strategic policies in the local development plan
Whether making an order would breach EU obligations,
Whether the proposal is consistent with convention rights for human rights
The geographical extent of the referendum
If all is found to be in order, the Independent Examiner will recommend that a referendum is held, and this decision will be binding on local planning authority, who will then organise the referendum.
Where more than 50 per cent of those who vote in the referendum vote in favour, the local planning authority will have a duty to approve a Community Right to Build Order giving planning approval for the proposed scheme. The Community Right to Build Order gives approval to build, but in the same way as all other planning approvals, community groups will still need to acquire land to be able to take forward development as well as meeting any other consent regimes (e.g. building regulations).