Question of to what extent Neighbourhood Development Plans can depart from the local development plan remains open to debate, says expert

Out-Law Analysis | 21 Dec 2012 | 4:41 pm | 1 min. read

OPINION: In 2012 the very first neighbourhood development plans (NDPs) were produced and submitted for independent examination.

NDPs have been promoted by the Government as a way for local people to have a meaningful say in the strategic planning of the area in which they live. However, the extent to which a NDP can depart from the policies of the local development plan is a question that remains open to debate.

The legal requirements, referred to as 'basic conditions'. for an NDP specify that it must be in "general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area of the authority".

The first NDP to be submitted for independent examination was the Dawlish Parish NDP, and the examiner in that case recommended that it should not be submitted for a referendum in the local community because it was "neither positively prepared nor justified", and that it should only be sent to referendum when it was in "full conformity" with the strategic policies of the local planning authority, Teignbridge District Council.

Logic dictates that in order to play a meaningful role in allowing local people to have a say in the planning of the area in which they live a NDP must have some scope to expand upon and perhaps even make some adjustment to the policies of the local development plan.

Indeed the National Planning Policy Framework explicitly states that where a NDP has been found to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the local development plan the policies of the NDP "take precedence over existing non-strategic policies in the Local Plan for that neighbourhood, where they are in conflict" Without the ability to set their own policies for an area NDPs would become little more than a repetition of the existing local development plan.

We will be watching any NDPs that are examined in 2013 with keen interest not least to see how the issue of "general conformity" is addressed. If the outcome of the Dawlish Parish NDP is followed as a precedent NDPs may not provide the level of community empowerment that the government was hoping for.

Jamie Lockerbie is a planning law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com