The Neighbourhood Planning Bill is steaming through the legislative process – and there is much to be learned from the clauses added during recent debates - and from the debates themselves.

Gavin Barwell was a prominent contributor to debates and seemed to favour a more market-based approach to delivery of services, with councils potentially delivering planning services beyond their own areas. He also made it clear that a Planning White Paper is imminent, and that it will include proposals on resourcing planning departments, details on how new Government powers are to be used, and the long-awaited response to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) review.

The Bill had a relatively well tempered passage through the committee stage with division most clear in relation to proposed changes to pre-commencement conditions (described as “a sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut” by one Opposition member), and in relation to the extension of permitted development rights. The Government stood firm on its position in relation to both issues, but added additional clauses to the Bill that appear to confirm its ambitions for the planning system as a whole:

  • powers for the Secretary of State to direct two or more local planning authorities to prepare a joint plan and to invite a County Council to prepare a plan on behalf of a district authority
  • a new requirement for local planning authorities to review their documents at specific intervals
  • greater prescription on the content of local development documents and local development schemes.

Hugh Ellis, Interim Chief Executive of the Town and Country Planning Association, claimed in evidence that “there is a crisis in the planning service” while Gavin Barwell was optimistic that communities would thrive if they could be allowed to “bloom”.

This Bill has now completed its committee stage and is awaiting its report stage on the floor of the House. Time will tell which one of those views is closer to the truth.

The content of this article is for general information only. To discuss the Neighbourhood Planning Bill further please contact Sue Chadwick or a member of Birketts' Planning and Environmental Law Team. Law covered as at November 2016.