Neighbourhood planning in absence of an up-to-date Local Plan

A challenge to a neighbourhood plan failed after the High Court decided that the absence of up-to-date housing policies would not preclude a neighbourhood plan from allocating sites for housing.

In this case an unsuccessful challenge was made against the decision by Lewes District Council to put the Newick Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) out to referendum.

The claimant’s grounds included the contention that the NDP could not meet the statutory requirement of being “in general conformity with strategic policies” in the local development plan because the housing policies in the Council’s local plan were out of date and the new Core Strategy was still emerging.

On considering previous case law, the Court agreed with the conclusion in the case of Gladman that there is nothing in legislation to say that a NDP cannot include policies dealing with the use and development of land for housing where there is no development plan document containing strategic policies on housing. The judgment in Woodcock was also applied, which held that the absence of a local plan does not preclude the making of a NDP. It was noted that (under s.38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) if a Local Plan is adopted which contains policies conflicting with an existing NDP, the conflicting policies in the last document to be adopted would prevail.

The judgment also comments that the lack of an up-to-date Local Plan may arguably be a material consideration in determining a planning application that conflicts with an existing NDP. The Court was of the view that the weight to attach to the conflict would be a matter of planning judgment and would depend in part on the likely prospect of the emerging Local Plan being adopted and the extent to which there was a divergence between the NDP and the emerging Local Plan.

The claimant also challenged the NDP on the ground that the sites that it allocated for housing were not deliverable, as Natural England had advised that the sites would be acceptable only if accompanied by the provision of a SANG, and yet no SANG had been identified. The Court held that the District Council’s genuine confidence that the SANG would be delivered was a sufficient basis for concluding that the proposed NDP met the statutory “basic conditions” that must be met before the NDP can be put out to referendum.

R (DLA Delivery) v Lewes District Council (2015)


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