Neighbourhood Partnerships, Forums, New Homes Bonus and s106

Neighbourhood Partnerships, Forums and Planning

The Localism Act, received Royal Assent on November 15 2011 and introduces new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development by coming together to prepare neighbourhood plans. Neighbourhood planning can be taken forward by two types of body - town and parish councils or 'neighbourhood forums'. Neighbourhood forums are community groups that are designated to take forward neighbourhood planning in areas without parishes. It is the role of the local planning authority to agree who should be the neighbourhood forum for the neighbourhood area.The criteria for establishing neighbourhood forums are being kept as simple as possible to encourage new and existing residents’ organisations, voluntary and community groups to put themselves forward.

Neighbourhood forums and parish councils can use new neighbourhood planning powers to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. These are described legally as'neighbourhood development plans.' In an important change to the planning system communities can use neighbourhood planning to permit the development they want to see - in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications. These are called'neighbourhood development orders.'
Local councils will continue to produce development plans that will set the strategic context within which neighbourhood development plans will sit.

Neighbourhood development plans or orders do not take effect unless there is a majority of support in a referendum of the neighbourhood.They also have to meet a number of conditions before they can be put to a community referendum and legally come into force. These conditions are to ensure plans are legally compliant and take account of wider policy considerations (e.g. national policy). Conditions include regard to national planning policy, conformity with strategic policies in the local area (ie core strategy).

An independent expert checks that a neighbourhood development plan meets the conditions before it can be voted on in a local referendum. Plans or orders need to gain the approval of a majority of voters of the neighbourhood to come into force. If proposals pass the referendum, the local planning authority is be under a legal duty to bring them into force.

Community Right to Build

The Localism Act also allows for community organisations to bring forward a ‘community right to build order’ which is a type of neighbourhood development order.
This allows certain community organisations to bring forward smaller-scale development on a specific site, without the need for planning permission. This gives communities the freedom to develop, for instance, small-scale housing and other facilities that they want. Any benefit from this development stays within the community to be used for the community's benefit, for example, to maintain affordable housing stock or to provide and maintain local facilities such as playgrounds and village halls. Community right to build orders are subject to a limited number of exclusions, such as proposals needing to fall below certain thresholds so that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required. Proposals are subject to testing by an independent person and a community referendum.

New Homes Bonus

The New Homes Bonus is designed to addresses the disincentive within the local government finance system for communities to ‘welcome growth’ by providing local authorities with the means to mitigate the strain the increased population from new development causes. This will ensure that the benefits of growth are returned to the local authorities and communities where growth takes place. In addition, in doing so the New Homes Bonus should help engender a more positive attitude to growth, and create an environment in which new housing is more readily accepted. The Bonus commenced in April 2011, and will match fund the additional council tax raised for new homes and properties brought back into use, with an additional amount for affordable homes, for the following six years. The New Homes Bonus will sit alongside the existing planning framework for making planning decisions. Local planning authorities will continue to be bound by their obligations under planning law and, in particular, the New Homes Bonus is not intended to encourage housing development which would otherwise be inappropriate in planning terms.

Section 106

Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authority (LPA) to enter into an agreement or planning obligation with a landowner in association with the granting of planning permission. The obligation is termed a Section 106 Agreement. These agreements are a way of delivering or addressing matters that are necessary to make a development acceptable in planning terms. They are increasingly used to support the provision of services and infrastructure, such as highways, recreational facilities, education, health and affordable housing.
The scope of such agreements is laid out in the government’s Circular 05/2005. Matters agreed as part of a S106 must be relevant to planning, necessary to make the proposed development acceptable in planning terms, directly related to the proposed development, fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development, reasonable in all other respects.