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More Questions on AVDC's Policy

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No doubt many residents have already become somewhat jaded about the Neighbourhood Plan and the recent correspondence from AVDC which casts some doubts on the extent to which our District Council will take such Plans into account when making local planning decisions.

Until recently, most of us understood that there was a legal requirement for Neighbourhood Plans to be factored into any local planning decisions, but AVDC seems to have muddied the waters.

Particularly agitated by AVDC's recent announcements has been Winslow Parish Council, which achieved completion of its NP about 12 months ago. The following is a response to AVDC's latest utterances from Roy van de Poll, a Winslow parish councillor.

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You will no doubt have seen and digested the two missives from AVDC this week.

Like many, I am still unclear why our District Council's Planning Department is, it appears, the only Local Planning Authority to have taken this 'ground-breaking decision.' AVDC just don't get it do they?

A community works its socks off to develop a Neighbourhood Plan in order that, as promised repeatedly by Government, it is empowered to devise and manage its future growth and along come our Planning people to tell us, oh sorry, in future we're going to dilute the weight given to your Housing Supply Policies such that they alone will not be a material reason for refusal and they wonder why we are unhappy! They take umbrage at the term abandon.

Well I am sure the prospect, let alone the reality of AVDC approving a hostile planning application which holes your Neighbourhood Plan below the water line resulting from this change, will make us all feel abandoned by the only LPA to go down this path.

A few comments on extracts from yesterday's 3-page note from AVDC:

AVCD: The emails in circulation also suggest that AVDC has made a 'decision' in relation to this matter and again for clarification there has been no decision.

Roy: Yes there has, AVDC has confirmed it is reducing the planning weight afforded to Housing Policies of made and draft Neighbourhood Plans.

AVDC: This does not mean that only little or no weight will be given to neighbourhood plans as seems to have been suggested in the e mails circulated to the parish and town councils. Reduced weight will be given to housing supply policies but they will still be taken into account and all other policies in a made neighbourhood plan will be given full weight in the decision making process.

Roy: This does not reassure me, does it you?

AVDC: As a result of the Woodcock judgement it is not as simple as making a statement that a development is in conflict with the neighbourhood plan. Consideration of applications needs to go further than that and show that there would be significant and demonstrable harm that would outweigh any benefits based on the content of the NPPF and relevant planning policies (Paragraph 14 of the NPPF). This is precisely what the advice given to district councillors on Friday 31st July said.

Roy: Think we are all agreed that a significant housing development that is not allowed for in a Neighbourhood Plan would, if approved, cause significant and demonstrable harm.

AVDC: In effect neighbourhood plans are now in the same position as the Council's own planning policies have been in for some time.

Roy: This is a very worrying statement. The Council's out of date saved planning policies from AVDLP came into force in 2004 based on evidence predating that and have been truly out of date for several years and quite rightly only attract limited planning weight. Our planning policies in our Neighbourhood Plans are very current in terms of the evidence underpinning them and, where applicable, their adoption and I am sure we are all agreed should,in spite of the irrationality of Para 49 describing them as not being up to date, should still be afforded considerable planning weight. Yet AVDC is lumping them together! It certainly gives me considerable concern that AVDC Planning will be reducing the planning weight of our Neighbourhood Plan Housing Policies to an unacceptably low level.

I have recently received a very damning critique of the 'clarification document' and its claim that the Woodcock Holdings judgement overturns that of Crane. I will share this with you in due course.

Roy van de Poll
Winslow

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A document providing further insight into the legal status of Neighbourhood Plans has been supplied by the parish council of Newton Longville. To read this, click on the PDF document 'NP Commentary' below the graphic on this page.

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