Speculative developments undermine draft neighbourhood plans, warns MP

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has renewed his call on the Government to prevent speculative developments which undermine draft neighbourhood plans, warning that public support for localism is threatened when unplanned housing is permitted.

The MP's call came after the Planning Inspectorate last week allowed two separate planning applications for an additional 347 houses in the village of Westergate. 

Both planning applications were approved on appeal by planning inspectors, yet both run contrary to the emerging Aldingbourne neighbourhood plan which is providing for 30 additional houses.

Arun District Council has already allocated a 'strategic development' of 2,000 homes between Barnham, Eastergate and Westergate.

Mr Herbert was speaking at a neighbourhood planning summit in Westminster yesterday (2 March) chaired by Brandon Lewis, Minister for Housing and Planning.  

The MP has also written to the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, to complain about the Planning Inspectorate's decision, urging that revised planning guidance promised by the Government following a debate in the Commons is issued as soon as possible.  Ministers promised the new guidance to "defend the interests of local authorities" after Mr Herbert spoke in the Infrastructure Bill debate on Monday 26 January.

Speaking at the neighbourhood planning summit, Mr Herbert said: "The Government has recognised that this a problem, and undertook to issue new guidance in a debate that we had in the Commons a couple of weeks ago about this issue.  I am looking forward to that coming down from the Minister.”

The MP said: “I think that we should say that where they are embarked on a process of neighbourhood planning and it's going forward to a proper timetable, from the point at which they embark on it, not at some point halfway through or towards the end of the process, these speculative applications should not be allowed, or at least there should be a very strong presumption against them.  If they go off the timetable, or are not serious about the neighbourhood plan, that could be reversed, but we must not punish communities who are doing the right thing."

Mr Herbert praised the neighbourhood planning process overall and highlighted the five neighbourhood plans, passed by substantial majorities in local referendums, which have so far been adopted in his constituency, in Arundel, Kirdford, Angmering, Hurstpierpoint and Barnham & Eastergate.  He said: "The success of neighbourhood planning rests on the fact that communities can see that it really can make a difference in their communities and that we ask people to take responsibility, true responsibility, for decisions.  This is not a meaningless or phoney consultation: it really does put people in charge."

But the MP said that the process needed to be made simpler to support more communities moving their plans forward.  He said: “We could make neighbourhood plans easier to put in place.  There is a certain amount of bureaucracy creeping into them, a great deal of prescription when it comes to the inspection of the plans and tendency by interest groups to want to load requirements onto the neighbourhood plans, whether it is in good design or all sorts of other things that we demand should be in the plans.  Please let’s minimise this.  Let’s trust the communities.  Let’s make sure the prescription is absolutely minimal, and if we do that perhaps we can also speed up the plans and get them through more quickly.”  

Mr Herbert concluded his remarks by saying that, while the problem with speculative developments needed to be addressed, it should not detract from the overall success of neighbourhood planning.

He said: “This is a really great policy.  It is localism in action.  In a short space of time we’ve made a huge difference to these communities by putting them in charge, and I want to see it flourish further.”





1.    To read Nick Herbert’s remarks to the national neighbourhood planning summit see  http://www.nickherbert.com/data/files/150202_Nick_speech_from_NP_conference.docx.

2.    To listen to the audio of Nick Herbert’s speech visit https://audioboom.com/boos/2948409-150302-nick-herbert-addresses-the-national-neighbourhood-planning-summit.

 3.    To read the Planning Inspectorate’s decisions on the two Westergate planning applications see http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/fscdav/READONLY?OBJ=COO.2036.300.12.7337727&NAME=/APPEAL%20DECISION%20.pdf   and http://www.pcs.planningportal.gov.uk/pcsportal/fscdav/READONLY?OBJ=COO.2036.300.12.7337657&NAME=/Decision..pdf.

4.    To read Nick’s news from 27 January 2015 ‘MP wins important new planning guidance’ see http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/589/mp-wins-quotimportantquot-new-planning-guidance.