Assistance in connection with neighbourhood planning

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 20 Hydref 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Gavin Barwell Gavin Barwell Minister of State (Department for Communities and Local Government) (Housing, Planning and London) 3:15, 20 Hydref 2016

I thank hon. Members for tabling the amendments, which provide an opportunity to discuss the important matters of the advice, assistance and resources available to communities and local planning authorities in supporting their take-up of neighbourhood planning. Before I respond to individual amendments and if you agree, Mr McCabe, I will say a few words about why we are introducing the measures in clause 5.

We believe that the clause will ensure that when communities consider whether to prepare a neighbourhood plan or order, they can make the decision with a full range of advice and assistance available to them. We believe that will assist in building the positive and constructive relationship between a local planning authority and the relevant local authority that is necessary to make neighbourhood planning work.

Amendment 1 simply facilitates amendment 2, which I will consider shortly. I will start with amendment 9, as the hon. Member for City of Durham did. I appreciate the desire to ensure that adequate resources are available to the relevant local council. We believe the amendment is unnecessary because local planning authorities can already claim funding for their duties in relation to neighbourhood planning. We will obviously continue to review the costs incurred by councils in delivering neighbourhood plans and these will change as the take-up of neighbourhood planning increases and local authorities, local communities and others become more familiar with the process.

It is probably worth putting on the record what the current arrangements are. Local authorities receive £5,000 for each of the first five neighbourhood areas they designate and £5,000 for each of the first five neighbourhood forums they designate. They then receive £20,000 for every single neighbourhood plan when a referendum date has been set. The idea is that there is some initial pump-priming for the first five to 10 times they deal with the process, but also a set amount of money because of the costs involved in examination and then in holding a referendum.

The hon. Lady made a wider point about resourcing planning departments and was keen that I reiterate what I said in the evidence session. I am happy to do that. I recognise absolutely that there is an issue. Reflecting back on the evidence that was given to us, I respectfully suggest to her that I did not hear a lot of evidence that the Government were not properly funding the specific burden of organising neighbourhood planning. I heard a lot of evidence that in more general terms planning departments are underfunded and the Government need to look at the level of planning fees being charged.