We have already seen a revolution in neighbourhood planning, with 193 neighbourhood plans approved at referendum and nearly 2,000 groups across the country involved, covering nearly 10 million people. We announced in the Queen’s Speech that we will introduce a new package of measures further to strengthen neighbourhood planning in the forthcoming neighbourhood planning and infrastructure Bill.
My constituents are strong supporters of neighbourhood planning as a way of influencing the planning system in their local areas. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss the forthcoming Bill and how it can give more weight to neighbourhood plans, local views and, indeed, permitted development where neighbours agree?
I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. Neighbourhood plans are one of the most important successes of the Localism Act 2011 and they are catching fire across the country as more and more communities want to be able to shape the character of their communities. It is notable that when they go to referendum, the average yes vote is 89%. I think either side of the referendum campaign would regard that as emphatic.
Some councils, including Leeds City Council, are prioritising “easy” areas with neighbourhood plans and ignoring and not properly assisting those where it is difficult and there are huge pressures, such as Aireborough. Will the Secretary of State look at the guidance issued to councils, particularly as developers can carry on developing even though neighbourhood plans are being produced?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will involve himself in the scrutiny of the new Bill, which is designed to help precisely those neighbourhoods where support from the local authority has not always been forthcoming and enthusiastic, so that they can insist on that and proceed apace.