n the Commons this week I moved two sets of amendments to deal with local concerns about planning.  Neighbourhood plans have been a local success story, but they have been undermined by speculative developments. 

Developers try to get in applications ahead of the completion of neighbourhood plans or even after they have been completed.  These applications are either upheld by the local authority, which is fearful of losing an appeal, or the developer makes an appeal that is upheld by the planning inspector.

The whole point of the policy of localism and neighbourhood planning is to give local people control and the ability to determine where development goes.  If that is overturned very quickly, or even as they complete their plan or just before it is passed by a referendum, it undermines confidence in localism. 

Developers have the right to appeal against planning permission that is refused, but the community has no right of appeal.  The only recourse is to invite the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ an application that appears to run contrary to national policy.

He is currently considering doing this - at my request - over proposed housing at Fontwell that was given planning permission even though it conflicts with a neighbourhood plan.

I proposed giving a limited ‘neighbourhood right of appeal’ against speculative planning applications that are granted if they run contrary to a neighbourhood plan or an emerging neighbourhood plan that is very close to being completed.

The second issue I raised was inadequate infrastructure to support development.  If people are already concerned about issues like access to the local school of their choice or congestion on local roads, it undermines support for new housing when the infrastructure is not provided to go with it.

The Minister said that new development should be supported by an appropriate level of infrastructure and that developers should provide support to put that in place. 

He also said that a “made” neighbourhood plan is a clear indication of a community’s vision for its local area, and it should be respected as such.  Local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate should also give “due weight” to neighbourhood plans as they progress towards adoption.

I had a lot of support for the issues I raised, and was pleased that the Minister recognised our concerns.

Nick Herbert