The Localism Bill was published by the Government at the end of last year. It introduces a concept of neighbourhood planning, which seeks to empower local groups to draw up their own plans for their neighbourhoods. At present District Councils are responsible for planning in their Districts, and Mole Valley District Council is preparing a suite of planning documents for inclusion in its Local Development Framework (LDF). It has already adopted an overall planning strategy for the District and supplementary documents which explain how affordable housing is to be provided and an appraisal of the characteristics of each area as a guide for future development.
The Bill also proposes that local groups, whether they are Residents Associations, Parish Councils, Street Committees, ad hoc groups of residents or even businesses, provided they number at least 21 individuals, can come together to form a Neighbourhood Forum to draw up their own plans for their own neighbourhoods. These plans have to accord with the Council’s own strategic plan, and agreed by a referendum of local residents, but once they have been adopted by the Council as part of its LDF they will be an important consideration in the Council’s determination of planning applications. The District Plan will cover only those places not subject to a Neighbourhood Plan.
So there is an opportunity to be grasped – will anybody take up the challenge?