England's parish councils are the unsung heroes of neighbourhood planning and key to putting communities in control of shaping future development and housing, according to their umbrella body the National Association of Local Councils (NALC).
Responding to an article by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of Exchequer in The Times (4 July 2015) about how neighbourhood planning is giving "local people an even greater ability to decide where new homes go and what they look like", NALC has extended an offer to discuss with the Government on accelerating the take up of neighbourhood planning.
There are currently over 1,500 areas designated for neighbourhood planning, around 90% of these being in areas with a parish or town council, and 74 neighbourhood planning referendums successful so far.
Very local councils - England's localist powerhouse - have jumped in the driving seat to take up the mantle of shaping future development and housing in their areas.
Neighbourhood planning powers give people the chance to decide how their local area should develop and what should be built, with the community choosing where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built and what they want them to look like.
A good start has made with neighbourhood planning but NALC wants the Government to do more to build on these foundations and help communities and parishes get more 'hyper local' plans in place.
NALC is calling for a package of incentives to encourage more widespread take up of neighbourhood planning, with ideas including:
action to ensure planning authorities get their local plans in place;
all planning authorities to have Community Infrastructure Levy (CiL) and New Homes Bonus schemes in place to ensure communities benefit financially from development, with an increase in the share of CiL for parishes which have a neighbourhood plan in place;
consideration of automatic neighbourhood area designation in parished areas to speed up the process;
a commitment to funding and supporting every parish and town council which wants to develop a neighbourhood plan over the lifetime of this Parliament;
the introduction of new statutory rights on planning and licensing consultation and planning appeal rights for parish and town councils with neighbourhood plans.
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, said: “Neighbourhood Plans are a way to give local people greater influence and control over the future development of their communities. It is good to see that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor recognises this and that these plans are a mechanism to allow communities to influence the location of housing within their own area more directly.
But we believe more can be done and I am ready to discuss with Government our ideas about how we can support and incentivise communities to take up these relatively new statutory powers and opportunities. Parish and town councils are already showing how they can be a ‘localist powerhouse’ for more sustainable development in local communities.