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New planning guidance emphasises importance of housing evidence to neighbourhood planning

Changes to planning guidance have placed additional emphasis on the importance of local housing needs to the neighbourhood planning process.16 Feb 2016

New paragraphs were added to the UK government's National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) last week clarifying that, in areas with a neighbourhood plan in place but without a five year supply of deliverable housing sites, neighbourhood plan policies relating to housing should not be considered up-to-date.

New paragraphs 082 and 083 direct decision makers to the parts of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the NPPG that can provide further guidance on how much weight to give to housing supply policies in such circumstances. The new guidance also says evidence produced during the preparation of the relevant neighbourhood plan may provide assistance in coming to a decision.

Additions made last week to paragraph 040 of the NPPG say that neighbourhood plan policies relevant to housing supply "should take account of latest and up-to-date evidence of housing need" and that local authorities should "share relevant evidence on housing need gathered to support [their] own plan-making" with groups preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Paragraph 009 of the NPPG was also updated, to make it clear that housing needs evidence produced to support an emerging local plan is likely to be relevant in determining whether a neighbourhood plan "contributes to the achievement of sustainable development". Further changes to paragraph 009 recommend that, in order to ensure that their policies are not "overridden by a new local plan", neighbourhood plans should "consider providing indicative timetables, and allocating reserve sites to ensure that emerging evidence of housing need is addressed".

Planning expert Jamie Lockerbie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This new guidance makes it clear that neighbourhood plan policies are not immune from five year housing land supply considerations. This makes logical sense in that neighbourhood planning policies which restrict or limit development cannot override paragraph 47 of the NPPF merely because they are in a neighbourhood plan as opposed to the local plan. Neighbourhood plans are after all part of the development plan.”