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Neighbourhood Planning Referendums

Volume 563: debated on Monday 3 June 2013

In all three referendums, residents have voted overwhelmingly in support of neighbourhood plans. More than 90% of voters said yes in Eden and Exeter St James and 76% in Thame.

I welcome the Government’s use of referendums in neighbourhood plans, which contrasts with the heavy-handed, top-down regional planning strategies of the last Government. Will the Minister confirm that my constituents in Adur, who face excessive house building on our diminishing green spaces—including, often, on floodplains between the downs and the sea—will be able to influence our draft local plan through the use of referendums, and that the planning inspector will be sympathetic to this manifestation of the localism promoted by the Government?

I am delighted to be able to reassure my hon. Friend that a plan cannot be found sound unless it has undergone a great deal of consultation by local people; an inspector will expect that to have happened before they examine the plan.

Further to that question, will the Minister help my communities, who are very excited about this neighbourhood planning idea? Once the local plan has been submitted, can they still work on developing their neighbourhood plan?

Yes. It does not really matter what state the local plan is in; it is always possible for communities to work on neighbourhood plans and we strongly encourage that. Whether the neighbourhood plan is made before or after the local plan, it simply has to be in conformity with the core needs identified in the local plan; it can move ahead independently of it.