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Government to press ahead with neighbourhood planning reforms

Proposals to make it easier for local community groups to play a role in the planning system are to go ahead, the government has announced.

The DCLG published the results of a consultation into proposed reforms to policy on neighbourhood plans, which are developed by community groups and, if they pass several stages of assessment, are voted on by residents in a referendum.

Under the proposals, local planning authorities will be required to designate all of a neighbourhood area applied for where the application is for a whole parish area, or where the local authority has failed to meet the statutory timetable for decision making of 13 weeks, or 12 weeks for applications which cross local authority boundaries.

Although more than half of respondents supported the proposals, a third of responses from local authorities were opposed to them, saying that it was difficult for them to make complex decisions in this timeframe and that they would lack the resources to deliver the proposals.

The DCLG said that while it had noted the feedback, it did not “consider that this proposal represented a new burden” and would proceed with the changes.

Local authorities will also face a time limit of five weeks for deciding whether residents should be allowed to hold a referendum on a draft neighbourhood plan or order.

The DCLG said that it will work with pilot areas to explore opportunities for providing better support to local planning authorities, and will also address the issues in the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, which is due to be published soon.

The communities and local government secretary will also be able to intervene where a plan has passed examination but has been blocked by the local planning authority, although the department said that this power would only be used “in exceptional circumstances”.

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