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Neighbourhood Planning and Community Rights

Volume 599: debated on Monday 14 September 2015

6. What support his Department has provided to communities on neighbourhood planning and community rights since May 2010. (901301)

Up to March 2015, we provided nearly £50 million to help communities undertake neighbourhood planning and to access community rights and associated initiatives. We are going further and invested another £32 million in April to help even more communities take up their rights.

Fylde communities such as Warton and Wrea Green in my constituency have submitted comprehensive local plans to the council. Does the Minister agree that it is important that when the council is finalising the local plan, it takes into account the neighbourhood plans and the wishes of my constituents?

I concur completely with my hon. Friend’s view. Our planning guidance is clear that local authorities should work in collaboration with neighbourhood planning groups when neighbourhood and local plans are being developed at the same time. Local plans are also subject to at least two opportunities for comment by any interested party.

A common complaint I receive from residents and communities in Doncaster is about the blight of empty properties. Some 3,800 homes are empty and over 1,000 have been empty for more than a year. That attracts vandalism and antisocial behaviour, and is a blight on property prices. Despite the best efforts of councils, including Doncaster Council, it is hard to get the owners of such properties to get them up to standard and filled with people living in them. Will the Minister agree to review the rights and powers of communities to tackle the scandal of empty homes, without imposing a cost on the taxpayer for the neglect of owners and landlords?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. She will be a loss to the shadow Front Bench. Local authorities already have significant powers to bring empty properties back into use. They are incentivised by receiving the new homes bonus to get long-term empty properties back into use. They also have the power to change the council tax regime to charge more council tax on properties that stand empty for a long period. I suggest that she contact her local authority and ask what it is doing about this.

23. Following a passionate local campaign, planning permission was recently rejected that would have seen the Ascot Tavern, a local pub in Cannock, demolished and replaced by yet another new supermarket. Local campaigners are looking at registering the pub as a community asset. What measures are the Government taking to assist and support communities who find themselves in that situation and similar ones?

(901318)

I welcome my hon. Friend’s interest in this important subject. We have removed permitted development rights from pubs that are listed as assets of community value. As was promised in our manifesto, we are committing £1.5 million to a pub loan fund to support community groups in taking ownership of their local pub. The My Community advice service also offers important advice and support to local groups that are looking to take on their local.