Assistance in connection with neighbourhood planning

Part of Neighbourhood Planning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:30 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) 3:30, 20 Hydref 2016

Amendment 13 raises some interesting questions. Communities already have a right to be heard in the planning system in lots of ways. I can run through some of them. Local people have the chance to have their say as local plans and neighbourhood plans are developed, when individual planning applications come forward and if a planning application is turned down and there is an appeal, and they can call for applications to be called in by Ministers. I think that the amendment is probing, because its wording is generic and does not define what the right to be heard is, although I guess that is essentially what the hon. Lady was referring to.

The Government’s view is that there is no need to change the law in this regard. Most of the concerns of the NALC and others—the hon. Member for Bassetlaw has expressed them powerfully—are partially addressed by clause 1, and the policy changes in the White Paper that we want to make will also help significantly in that regard. The other powers talked about here—for example, the power to ask me to call applications in—already exist. I am reluctant to use those powers too frequently, because my starting point is that the planning system should be locally driven. However, if there are planning applications that I think raise issues of national importance about the way national policy is playing out on the ground, I am happy to call them in. In the three months that I have been doing this job, I have called in a couple of applications where I felt a decision had been taken that was contrary to a neighbourhood plan and I wanted to look at the issues myself. I think that the fundamental issues that the amendment probes are already in the system or will be addressed by the policy changes in the White Paper.

Amendment 14 was the amendment that most interested me. I do not agree with putting it into law, but I agree with the fundamental idea behind it. I think that the hon. Member for City of Durham is saying that we may want to tell people in a statement of community involvement how to go about setting up a parish council, because that is clearly one of the ways in which they could drive a neighbourhood plan. If I was writing a statement of community involvement, I would absolutely think it appropriate to put that in it, but I am not sure that we want to get into the business of writing into statute what the content of statements of community involvement should be. Indeed, when we come to clause 6, I will address why the Government do not want to get into the business of saying what is a good or bad statement of community involvement. We have to trust local councils to set that information out. If the hon. Lady is reassured by me saying that that is the kind of information that I would expect to see in such statements, I am happy to put that on the record.