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Rich Tory areas keenest on neighbourhood plans

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Rich Tory areas keenest on neighbourhood plans

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Development, Local Government

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The take up of neighbourhood plans is concentrated  in affluent Tory-led local authority areas in the south of England, new research has shown.

Planning consultancy Turley's study - 'Neighbourhood Planning: Plan and Deliver?' - shows that, to date, over 980 applications have been made by neighbourhood organisations for formal approval to draw up a neighbourhood plan.

Of these, over 750 areas have been approved by local authorities to proceed. Seventy five neighbourhood plans have been published for consultation.

However, only six neighbourhood plans were formally in place at the end of February 2014.

Neighbourhood plans are a cornerstone of the government’s localism agenda.

Of those plans published, 73% have been produced in areas with Conservative-led councils, with just 9% having been produced in areas which are Labour-controlled. 75% of all published plans have been produced in the south of England.

Turley's research also highlights that areas of below average affluence have so far been less involved in the neighbourhood planning processes, with just nine plans published in areas categorised as ‘most deprived’.

Rob Peters, executive director in Turley’s Bristol office who led the research, said: “We have reviewed over 4,000 pages of draft neighbourhood plans and a clear picture is emerging. The preparation of neighbourhood plans is popular but is being recognised more by communities in the south of England compared to the North.

“It also appears that less affluent communities – are not yet engaging fully in the neighbourhood planning process.”

The study found that, of the plans published so far, the smallest population of a neighbourhood plan area is Walton (Wakefield in West Yorkshire) representing just 225 people.
The largest is Winsford (Cheshire) representing over 30,000 people, highlighting the difference in size, scale and geography of the plans.

Two thirds (67%) of all published plans cover rural neighbourhoods and one third relate to urban areas. Over half (55%) of all neighbourhood plans seek primarily to resist new development, with that number increasing to 63% in rural areas.

Mr Peters added: “I am not yet convinced that neighbourhood planning is an emphatic success or that the plans are making satisfactory provision for development, as the government has suggested, when so few plans have been made (i.e. adopted).”

“Neighbourhood plans have been stalling in their progress to adoption with adjourned examinations (Winslow, Aylesbury Vale), rejections by Examiners (Slaugham), and legal challenges (Tattenhall, Cheshire).”

“The picture that emerges from the published neighbourhood plans is one of the majority seeking to maintain the status quo and restricting new development, with a smaller minority of plans encouraging growth. This suggests a potential for conflict between localism delivered through neighbourhood planning and the positive presumptions and growth that underpin government policy.”

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