The POS welcomes these changes that will both speed up the process of making and modifying neighbourhood plans and encourage closer working between LPAs and neighbourhood plan teams. The necessity for this has long been apparent, with successful qualifying bodies frequently underlining the importance of the support of an LPA that goes beyond the minimum level of support required by regulation.
However, close working is all the more important today as Government guidance and decisions in the courts and on appeal have underscored the importance of preparing neighbourhood plans with the same degree of rigour and detail as applies to a LPA preparing its own plans. Lack of relevance to a development plan, lack of evidence, ambiguity or a lack of clarity of purpose in policy writing, and unenforceable policies are reasons why some
neighbourhood plans have disappointed. With early warning of the desire of their communities to undertake neighbourhood planning a LPA can and should include close support for the process in its work programmes, ensuring they and the neighbourhood plan team take maximum benefit from the funding available.
Whilst allowing communities the freedom to set the content and direction of their neighbourhood plans, a LPA that acts as a critical friend from the outset of plan preparation will find the outcome is a plan that is both fit for purpose and that delivers much needed development and environmental improvement.