The Localism Bill recently received Royal Ascent. The recently released document provides further clarity on this matter, with a particular focus on the impact of neighbourhood community groups becoming empowered through the planning process. The report states that, ‘Neighbourhood planning will allow communities, both residents, employees and business, to come together through a local parish council or neighbourhood forum and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go – and what they should look like.’
The report continues to clarify how these plans will be created, by stating, that the ‘plans can be very simple and concise, or go into considerable detail where people want. Local communities will be able to use neighbourhood planning to grant full or outline planning permission in areas where they most want to see new homes and businesses, making it easier and quicker for development to go ahead.’
The worrying element is the length and detail of the neighbourhood plan. Should plans be over complex or detailed, it could have the opposite effect of enabling development, and actually adversely affect the streamlining of the planning process. What it could mean is that local community groups create a level of guidance that may be more complex or bureaucratic than the existing system. With a provisional implementation date of April 2012, the effects will seen by planning officers and planning consultants throughout the country.