Cheshire East Council has welcomed the Government’s move to strengthen the status of Neighbourhood Plans, as 40 parishes and towns across the borough progress proposals.
Last week, housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell amended the policy around housing supply in order to reinforce Neighbourhood Plans, changing the criteria for proving a supply of housing land from five years to three.
In future, planning authorities and inspectors at appeal will not be able to favour planning applications simply on the basis of a modest shortfall in a borough-wide housing land supply, where a Neighbourhood Plan is in place.
Where a Neighbourhood Plan allocates sites for development, and the local authority can demonstrate it has a three-year supply of housing land, the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan will outweigh any shortage of housing sites in the wider area.
The changes are particularly pertinent for Cheshire East, which has lost several appeals in recent years based on its lack of five-year land supply.
There are currently five Neighbourhood Plans in place across Cheshire East, with the council actively pushing for more parishes to put forward their proposals, to strengthen “the ability of local planning authorities and communities to resist unsustainable development”.
Neighbourhood Plans that are already passed can be reviewed but the minister’s announcement, to be followed next year by the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, allows parishes currently drawing up their proposals to review their site allocations.
Cllr Rachel Bailey, leader of Cheshire East Council, said: “I welcome this statement from the Government. This is good news for this council and for the many hard-working volunteers who, for the benefit of the communities in which they live, have spent many thousands of hours preparing their own Neighbourhood Plans.
“This council believes in supporting grass-roots planning policies and the minister’s announcement means that where the council can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable sites, instead of the current five years, a local Neighbourhood Plan must be given every consideration in the planning process.”
Last week, Cheshire East Council secured the backing of government planning inspector Stephen Pratt for its emerging Local Plan, a blueprint for all future housing and infrastructure development across the borough until 2030.
Once adopted, this is expected to deliver a five-year housing land supply, a principal argument used by developments seeking to overturn planning refusals at appeal.