The Neighbourhood Plan Bait and Switch is a trick by now known I think to every Head and Planing and Planning Lead Cllr in the country. When MPs and Council leaders come to visit Big Eric he urges it upon them. I doubt the Treasury have much of a clue what it is.
The otherwise admirable Neighborhood Planning System is being used as cover for naked political nimbyism in the run up to a General Election because of the perverse misalignment of incentives that ministers have created in a misguided attempt to favour them, even if they slow down local plan making where the big numbers are achieved.
Neighbourhood plans dont need to be sound. They can be adopted in advance on local plan. The theory, as set out successfully in the courts to defenders of the Winslow NP against Gladman’s JR is that NOPS provide early housing numbers, and then later local plans ctach upm where necessary allocating additional housing.
This legal theory has been blown out of the water by the Rollaston on Dove appeal SoS decision. Here a neighbourhood plan allocated very little housing and an examiner recommended allocating the site in question as it was in a draft local plan.
The NP had been submitted for examination in July 2013, including policies providing for 85 new homes in the parish by 2031 and precluding development on the application site, which was allocated as an open space of community value (OSCV). An independent examiner had recommended in his report in October 2013 that the application site be removed from the list of OSCVs and that the figure of 85 homes should not represent a ceiling on development.
Pickles acknowledged that the proposed development “would not be in direct conflict with policies in the NP”, as modified by the examiner.However, he concluded that “to allow this appeal in advance of the NP progressing to referendum would represent a large scale development that is not in a location that is explicitly provided for by the NP or required to be incorporated as a strategic requirement”.
“The appeal proposal undermines the neighbourhood plan-making process by predetermining decisions about the scale and location of new development central to the emerging NP,” said Pickles. Dismissing the appeal and refusing consent, the SoS noted that granting permission would have both prejudiced emerging local planning policies and had “wider implications for neighbourhood planning nationally”.
So what the SoS was saying is that the plan as modified might be rejected by referendum and so was premature. If ever there was an incentive to reject the referendum, Pickles was almost urging it. What this demonstrates is how ridiculous the referendum system is. Think what would happen if the referendum was rejected and the site was allocated anyway in a local plan, given the examiners decision this seems the most likely outcome. Referendums have become an expensive fait accompli or an irrelevance as once the local plan is adopted there is no way of voting down a non compliant local plan.
So what the Neighbourhood Plan Bait and Switch allows you to do is
1. No neighbourhood plan in draft
2. No 5 year supply
3. Local plan long way off
4. Planning application comes in to utilise the presumption in favour of development.
5. Officers recommend approval as they have to
6. Villages say it will produce a draft NP soon
7. Members realise this means that a draft will be ready before a S78 appeal hearing and that if they lobby for a call in on NP prematurity grounds then Big Eric will call it in and refuse it on prematurity grounds
8. Everyone knows this and goers through the motion of a recommendation for approval and a vote against the proposal
9. Whilst the bait and switch is going on the LPA has no incentive to allocate the site as it would look stupid, have a referendum, or even to consult on or submit a local plan as the bait and switch only works when you have no up to date local plan.
10. Big Eric refuses the scheme, irrespective of the site merits, on prematurity grounds
11. This gives the LPA a breathing space, during which time they have no incentive to submit a local plan as they have found a loophole to NPPF para.14
12. Housing numbers are reduced not increased as local plans and sites in other villages than the Neighborhood plan area in question are ever further delayed.