Javid gives 'substantial weight' to out-of-date neighbourhood plan policy

Out-Law News | 22 Sep 2016 | 3:24 pm | 2 min. read

UK communities secretary Sajid Javid has refused planning permission for 100 homes in an area with a housing shortage, after giving "very substantial weight" to conflict with an out-of-date neighbourhood plan policy.

Javid disagreed with a planning inspector about the amount of weight that should be given to policies in the Yapton Neighbourhood Plan, which came into legal effect in November 2014.

Arun District Council had refused outline permission for the scheme in October 2014. The developer's appeal was recovered for determination by the communities secretary and planning inspector David Nicholson recommended that it should be allowed.

The inspector considered that the housing policies in the emerging local plan and the neighbourhood plan for the area were out-of-date because the council could demonstrate only a three-year supply of land for housing development. He had given these policies limited weight

The inspector concluded that "the only adverse impact [of the proposal] would be to the character and appearance of the field itself, and the loss of agricultural land, harm which is likely to be inevitable somewhere in the district if housing targets are met". He found that these impacts did not "significantly and demonstrably" outweigh the "considerable benefits" of the scheme and recommended that outline planning permission should be granted.

A decision letter on behalf of the communities secretary said Javid disagreed with the inspector's recommendation. Javid said that, although the housing policies in the Yapton Neighbourhood Plan were out-of-date, conflict with certain of them should be given "very substantial negative weight"

The communities secretary said a neighbourhood plan policy that allowed for "additional [housing] allocations to be made if the emerging Arun Local Plan requires such action or if the identified housing sites do not proceed" was flexible enough to ensure that local housing needs were met. Whilst he acknowledged that the neighbourhood plan was "underpinned" by outdated housing figures, Javid gave "significant weight" to its housing policies in general, and specifically to a policy that set a settlement boundary outside which new homes should not be built.

When the conflict with the development plan was taken into account, Javid concluded that the adverse impacts of the proposal would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the identified benefits, and that planning permission should be refused.

Planning expert Ben Mansell of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This decision emphasises the importance of neighbourhood plans within the planning framework. A neighbourhood plan has the same legal status as the local plan once it has been brought into force by the local planning authority."

"In this decision, Arun District Council only demonstrated a three-year supply of housing. Consequently the housing element of the Yapton Neighbourhood Plan is out-of-date in accordance with paragraphs 82 and 83 of the National Planning Policy Framework, where a five-year supply must be demonstrated. Nevertheless, whilst out-of-date, Sajid Javid has decided to attribute “substantial weight” to the neighbourhood plan. This highlights the weight that is likely to be attributed to neighbourhood plans in future decision-making, even if out-of-date," Mansell said.