Planning reform impacts on neighbourhood plan making – notes from Locality


sarah brooke-taylor


The Planning White Paper, Planning for the Future, is now out for public consultation. This paper sets out proposed planning reforms that the Government states will streamline and modernise the planning process.

Locality believes that the reforms may mean that neighbourhood plans will have a much more slimmed down scope. Below, we present a summary of potential implications that people like you involved in neighbourhood plan making may be interested in. Please note this is based on our own understanding.

Don’t forget, the White Paper is only a consultation and the final approach will be decided by the Government after it has received responses to the consultation.
Until the outcome of the consultation, the planning system continues to operate as normal and there are no immediate implications on neighbourhood plan making. Neighbourhood plans continue to have the same statutory weight and scope that they were afforded when launched in 2012. If you are preparing a plan, we urge you to continue with this.

How will the proposed reforms affect you?

Read through the summary of the potential implications below, and the White Paper, and ask yourself “What do you think a reduction in the scope of neighbourhood plans might mean for you?”, either as a group preparing a plan, as a group with a made neighbourhood plan, or as a group thinking of remaking a plan.

If your answer to this question worries or concerns you, have your say about the proposed reforms:

1. Write a letter to your MP – Locality has prepared a Template-letter-to-MPs-regarding-planning-reforms or adapt it if you have concerns.

2. Respond directly to the planning consultation – submit your responses directly to the Government before 11:45pm on Thursday 29th October

3. Tell Locality what you think – please complete our survey no later than Friday 11th September

Summary of potential implications for neighbourhood plan making:

The White Paper does not go into detail on what shape any reforms to neighbourhood plans could take. However, it suggests to us that the scope of what neighbourhood plans can do may be reduced in a manner similar to the approach suggested for local plans.
Without details, it is difficult to be definitive, but based on our interpretation of the document, the following could be potential implications:

• Neighbourhood plans would be able to continue to include detailed design guidance and codes (something they can do under the current planning system) to shape development. There would be a move towards the use of digital tools to help groups when preparing plans. Tools could include 3D visualisation technologies to explore proposals within the local context, making it more accessible.

• Neighbourhood plans may not be able to allocate sites for development (including housing), and it is not clear if they will/will not be able to categorise land under the categories of growth, renewal and protected (this is not made explicitly clear in the document).

• Neighbourhood plans may largely not be able to include development management policies, i.e. policies that planning officers normally take into account when deciding on planning applications, for example, policies that seek to protect the vitality of the high street (this is not made explicitly clear in the document).

You can read Locality’s full summary of potential implications, including implications on local plans and public participation in decision making to find out more about how these reforms may affect you.