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Neighbourhood Plans

Volume 616: debated on Monday 24 October 2016

The Government are fully committed to neighbourhood planning, which enables communities to shape the development and growth of their local area in a positive manner. The Neighbourhood Planning Bill will further strengthen and future-proof the process and ensure that communities have the support that they need.

I think we would all welcome local communities being involved in their local plans in more detail. However, does the Secretary of State agree that one of the big challenges is ensuring that developers use land that they already have planning permission for, with a particular emphasis, as we have heard, on brownfield sites?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Where sites have planning permission, developers should move ahead as quickly as possible. People in desperate need of housing expect developers to work with the local authorities to deliver those new homes. That is why we are trying to help where we can. The Neighbourhood Planning Bill will make a difference, as will the £3 billion home building fund that was announced last month.

There will be no real localism while developers have the right to appeal planning decisions and communities do not. In cases where a neighbourhood plan is in place, will the Secretary of State commit to seriously consider allowing a community right of appeal when a developer proposes a speculative development that goes against that plan?

A community right to appeal would further slow down the planning process, which is not in anyone’s interest. We need more homes built in this country and we need them built quickly, and measures such as those in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill are precisely the ones that will help.

In Eastleigh, we face countless hostile planning applications, some destroying ancient woodland and beautiful green spaces. Does the Secretary of State agree that the borough council’s failure to deliver a local plan and much needed associated policies for neighbourhood plans prevents councils such as Botley from bringing forward their neighbourhood plans, thereby letting down my constituents?

My hon. Friend has been a consistent champion in this House of the need for Eastleigh to have an up-to-date and properly supported local plan. Eastleigh Borough Council needs to get its act together. Her constituents deserve to have their voices heard, and our neighbourhood plan will strengthen that right.

In a recent appeal by the developer, the Planning Inspectorate totally overlooked the local neighbourhood plan in Tettenhall in my constituency. From memory, it made one passing reference to that plan in a 17-page decision upholding the developer’s appeal. I would not expect the Secretary of State to comment on a particular appeal, but will he have a look at how seriously the Planning Inspectorate takes local neighbourhood plans?

It would be wrong of me to comment on the detail of a particular planning application, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which is now before Parliament, will strengthen these neighbourhood plans. It will bring them into legal force far quicker, it will make it much easier to modify them and it will give more support, including financially, for communities to put them together.