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Legal challenge warning for parish councils over Neighbourhood Development Plans

Hobbs Parker

Hobbs Parker

Parish Councils in the process of drawing up Neighbourhood Development Plans have received a reminder of the need to follow recently updated procedures or risk facing legal challenges, says Ashford-based Hobbs Parker Property Consultants.

The Government has updated National Planning Policy Guidance, after one village council was forced to amend its housing plan and go back to the drawing board having faced the prospect of an un-defendable Judicial Review if it pressed ahead.

Haddenham Neighbourhood Plan in Buckinghamshire faced a challenge from a developer over the housing allocation policies.  A scheme for 280 houses, approved in principle by Aylesbury Vale District Council, was subsequently only identified as suitable for 80 houses by the Neighbourhood Plan.

Aylesbury District Council concluded it would not be able to defend in court the judicial review brought by the developer that considered the plan had been subject to a “flawed” process.

It decided to stop contesting the challenge, leaving the parish council to remove the Housing Section from their Neighbourhood Plan.

Steve Davies, Senior Planning Consultant at Hobbs Parker, said the Haddenham case should serve as a warning to other parish councils that there was a due process for drafting Neighbourhood Plans that must be followed.

“In Haddenham, the reason a Judicial Review was likely to be successful seems to stem from the failure of the parish council to follow a consistent and fair approach to site selection and scoring, and a failure to recognise wider housing need requirements,” said Steve.

“It may be that the parish council did not like decisions made at the district level but they are material to what can be put in the Neighbourhood Plan.

“In essence it would appear the parish council did not act properly and follow the correct procedures in formulating their plan.”

Steve added that the Government had recently made a number of amendments to its National Planning Policy regarding Neighbourhood Plans, which parish councils need to be aware of.

“It’s not clear whether the changes are as a result of the Haddenham case, but they are timely to it and certainly the guidance is to make it clear that there is a proper process to follow and how to do this,” said Steve.

“If in doubt, parish councils should seek professional advice.”

For further information on the work of Hobbs Parker Property Consultants or advice on the recent updates to the National Planning Policy regarding Neighbourhood Plans, call 01233 506201.

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