Backbench MPs seek to strengthen bill's neighbourhood plan provisions

A group of 15 backbench Tory MPs are seeking to amend the Neighbourhood Planning Bill to require town halls to consult the secretary of state before granting permission for major schemes against the wishes of neighbourhood planning bodies.

Houses of Parliament: bill to reach report stage on 13 December
Houses of Parliament: bill to reach report stage on 13 December

The amendment to the bill, which reaches its report stage in the House of Commons tomorrow, has been tabled by MPs including the former Cabinet Office minister Sir Oliver Letwin, the former police minister Nick Herbert, and Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell, who recently clashed with communities secretary Sajid Javid over plans to release land from Birmingham’s green belt for 6,000 new homes.

An explanatory statement says that the new clause would require planning authorities to consult neighbourhood planning bodies on decisions to grant planning permission.

"Where a planning authority wants to approve a major development against the wishes of a neighbourhood planning body, the planning authority will be required to consult the secretary of state before granting permission," the note adds.

Another amendment tabled by the MPs would "specify that neighbourhood plans should be taken into account notwithstanding the lack of a five-year supply of housing land", according to an explanatory statement.

The proposal "would empower the secretary of state to issue a development order to: clarify the means by which housing land supply is assessed … [and] define the minimum amount of time before a local planning authority’s failure to meet its housing targets results in its local plan being ‘out of date’", the explanatory note says.

An amendment tabled by eight Tory MPs, including Mitchell, Herbert and former education secretary Nicky Morgan, would prevent the government from making New Homes Bonus payments for developments proposed "in development plan documents on land (i) where the green belt boundary had been redrawn or (ii) within a national park or area of outstanding natural beauty, where a development is considered to be major".

A separate amendment tabled by Letwin would require local authorities to make "advances" available to parish councils to support the production of neighbourhood plans.

"The advances will equal the amount of income that the parish council agrees to forego out of the Community Infrastructure Levy revenues that would otherwise be paid to them by the local planning authority once the housing specified in the plan or order is built," an explanatory note says.

Among proposals in a group of amendments tabled by Labour MPs Roberta Blackman-Woods, Teresa Pearce and Jim McMahon are measures that would ensure that neighbourhood plan examinations are conducted by RTPI-registered examiners, that weight is given to neighbourhood plans "at key stages along the process and not just at the post-referendum stage", and changes that would allow for the full recovery of costs of assisting with the development of a neighbourhood plan to be recovered by the local authority.

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