The future of Planning in Trinity, and indeed the rest of the country, will increasingly be shaped within a three tier Integrated Planning Framework (IPF).
The Nationally Important Policies will be set by Central Government in the National Planning Policy Framework; Local focus will be applied by Local Councils in the production of Local Plans and Communities shaped by Neighbourhood Plans.
But why is this crucial to the future of Trinity and the wider East Devon??
Tier One : Central Government…
Strategic national principles have been shaped by the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This document was published on 25th July 2011 with consultation open until 17th October 2011. The draft framework sets out what are seen as Nationally Important Policies, but is designed to leave local matters to local councils, and in turn local communities.
National Policies are based on the principle of ‘sustainable development’. Minister Greg Clark says…
“Sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations, Development means growth….”
“Development that is sustainable should go ahead, without delay – a presumption in favour of sustainable development that is the basis for every plan, and every decision“.
The draft NPPF specifically, and crucially for the preservation of the character and essence of our beautiful Trinity Ward, retains protection for our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and other special environmental areas.
The draft further retains protection for old buildings and monuments. Development causing substantial harm or loss to an important ‘heritage asset’ is not allowed, although the language used is ambiguous enough to perhaps suggest an element of caution in this aspect of the framework?
Tier Two : Local Councils…
Local Plans are the successors to the LDF (Local Development Framework).
Local Plans will be produced by Local Councils, in our case East Devon District Council. Local Councils are responsible for producing Local Plans which reflect the principles and policies of the National Planning Policy Framework, but with a more local focus. They will set out where different kinds of development will be located, within a plan prepared in consultation with local communities and businesses.
Housing is a key element of Local Plans. East Devon District Council is required to complete an assessment of the number and profile of houses needed in East Devon. This must be coupled to the identification of sites or broad areas which can be used to satisfy these requirements over the next 15 years, with specific identification within this of the first five years land supply, plus one further year to promote a level of competition.
It is crucially important that Councils do not fail in this element of the plan, as should the Councils not find enough sites for the first five years of the plan then the Councils are likely to be required to grant permission for developments in areas which have not been identified on the grounds of a national ‘Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development’. There is significant danger to Councils, and by direct implication to communities, of a failure to secure the necessary land availability.
Local Councils are instructed to plan housing to meet local requirements, close to local services and with an appropriate mix of ‘Affordable’ and ‘Free Market’ housing provision. Isolated homes in the countryside should not be allowed in the absence of special reasons which might include; the need for a rural worker to live near their job, the safeguard of a special historic building, the re-use of a disused building or where the design of the building is seen as ‘very good’.
Tier Three : Neighbourhood Plans…
Neighbourhood Plans are the successors of Parish Plans,
They differ in that they are not necessarily produced by Parish Councils, nor is the Parish necessarily the area covered by each Neighbourhood Plan. They are designed to give a powerful set of tools for local people.
However it is important to note that Neighbourhood Plans must reflect the strategic policies of the Local Plan and National Planning Policy Framework. This makes it crucially important that all of our Trinity communities take the opportunity to work with East Devon District Council in the production of the Local Plan.
Perhaps confusingly, Government Policies suggest that, when a Neighbourhood Plan is made, its policies take precedence over existing policies in the Local Plan for that area…
Neighbourhood Plans are subject to much greater rigor than has historically been the case with Parish Plans. They must be assessed by an independent examiner where they must be shown to be compatible with the policies of the NPPF, be in conformity with the strategic policies in the Local Plan and meet relevant EU obligations and human rights requirements. When they have passed this hurdle they must then be put to a local referendum.
It is clear that Neighbourhood Plans are potentially complex. It seems likely that the process of preparation will be more complex and expensive than historically for Parish Plans.
It is not clear how the work will be funded, how the definition of a ‘neighbourhood’ will be finalised, nor who will provide the necessary support to our small rural communities, as we work to ensure that our collective wishes for the future of Trinity Ward are reflected.
The East Devon LDF Panel (Local Development Framework – soon to be replaced by the Local Plan) is stepping up the pace, as we move into the Autumn. Meetings are being scheduled weekly from the 30th August through to October to ensure that the necessary timetable can be met.