In a written ministerial statement yesterday, Barwell said plans would not automatically be deemed out of date in such circumstances if the following conditions applied when a decision on an application is made:
- This written ministerial statement is less than two years old, or the neighbourhood plan has been part of the development plan for two years or less
- The neighbourhood plan allocates sites for housing
- The local planning authority can demonstrate a three-year supply of deliverable housing sites
Paragraph 49 of the NPPF states that if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing land, "relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date". Instead, housing applications should be considered in the context of the NPPF’s presumption in favour of sustainable development.
In the statement, Barwell said that communities who have "worked hard to bring forward neighbourhood plans are often frustrated that their plan is being undermined because their local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply of deliverable housing sites".
He added: "I am today making clear that where communities plan for housing in their area in a neighbourhood plan, those plans should not be deemed to be out-of-date unless there is a significant lack of land supply for housing in the wider local authority area.
"We are also offering those communities who brought forward their plans in advance of this statement time to review their plans."
Barwell said yesterday’s statement was a material consideration for planning decisions and would apply immediately.
He added: "My department will be bringing forward a White Paper on Housing in due course. Following consultation, we anticipate the policy for neighbourhood planning set out in this statement will be revised to reflect policy brought forward to ensure new neighbourhood plans meet their fair share of local housing need and housing is being delivered across the wider local authority area.
"It is, however, right to take action now to protect communities who have worked hard to produce their neighbourhood plan and find the housing supply policies are deemed to be out-of-date through no fault of their own."
Barwell said the government would continue to recover planning appeals involving developments of 25 homes or more in areas where a draft neighbourhood plan has been submitted for examination to the local authority. The recovery period would be extended for a further six months from yesterday, he added.
Yesterday, a group of 15 backbench Tory MPs sought to amend the Neighbourhood Planning Bill to "specify that neighbourhood plans should be taken into account notwithstanding the lack of a five-year supply of housing land".
Another amendment tabled by the MPs would require town halls to consult the secretary of state before granting permission for major schemes against the wishes of neighbourhood planning bodies.
The bill is due to reach its report stage in the House of Commons today.