In late January we learned that the government had moved the goal-posts. EHDC briefed representatives of all towns and parishes in the region of changes which were being made at national level through the government’s most recent Housing White Paper and subsequent amendments to legislation, National Planning Policy Guidance and National Planning Policy Framework. You may have seen some reporting on this in the national or local press.
The key messages were that:
- There would now be a new legal requirement to review Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans every 5 years
- EHDC’s current Local Plan (which contains the allocation of “about twelve dwellings” for Bentworth) would become out of date in May 2019
- EHDC were therefore launching a review to create a new Local Plan for the area
- This new Local Plan would be adopted in 2020, would run from 2017-2036, but would be reviewed in 2022
- EHDC were required to identify sites for all land uses – not just housing but also business, infrastructure, etc – and would be putting out a call for sites ASAP; this would lead to a new Land Availability Assessment, which would replace the current SHLAA
- There was an expectation that the housing requirement for the District would increase, but the actual figure would not be known until summer 2018
We have subsequently met EHDC bilaterally to discuss the implications for the Bentworth Neighbourhood Plan. They told us that:
- If we proceeded with the Neighbourhood Plan in advance of the new Local Plan, it would have reduced legal force
- They had issued a new call for sites and would alert us if any came forward for Bentworth
- They could not yet say whether any additional dwellings might be required of Bentworth, nor – if so – how many
- They judged the risk of speculative development relatively low, but could not offer any guarantees
- They would like to work closely with us and suggested it would be advisable for us to develop Bentworth’s Neighbourhood Plan in tandem with their development of the new Local Plan (2017-36), so that it accords with and is consistent with the new Local Plan, thus giving it maximum possible force.
The Steering Committee has met to consider these developments and has concluded that it would not make sense to press ahead with the completion of our Neighbourhood Plan regardless. This is primarily because of the uncertainty about how many houses may now be required of Bentworth and whether additional sites will become available, and the reduced force of the Neighbourhood Plan if it is not aligned with the new Local Plan. We have decided that we should continue to work up the narrative of the plan and also the Vision, Objectives and Policies, which are unlikely to be significantly affected by the legal changes. We will continue to review the sites currently in the frame, but will put on hold for now any decision on the allocation of a site or sites for development.
These changes at national government level are completely outside our control and not welcomed by the Committee. We will keep in close touch with EHDC and will continue to keep parishioners posted.
Comprehensive material on the Neighbourhood Plan remains available on the Parish Council website: https://bentworthparishcouncil.org/neighbourhood-plan/
Anyone who would like to contact the Steering Committee can do so by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Please note that this message is not posted on behalf of Bentworth Parish Council and does not necessarily reflect the Parish Council’s policy]