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27 February 2016
Recent changes to NPPF affecting Neighbourhood Plans
We are writing to express our deep concern about the recent changes to the NPPF which appear to have diluted the usefulness of Neighbourhood Plans. Many communities in your constituency have invested time, effort and money in making these plans to try to ensure that localities are not swamped by housing developments in non-strategic areas. Those of us involved in the Neighbourhood Plan were encouraged by the Government, and by you, to undertake this process. Clearly the recent changes to the NPPF will now render Neighbourhood Plans as so many worthless pieces of paper in the absence of a five-year land supply over which communities have no control.
With regard to the five-year-land supply, we should like to point out to you that the objectively assessed housing need is not objectively assessed because it is artificially adjusted to “boost the supply of housing” The housing shortage is not evenly distributed across the country and artificially inflated OAHNs will not necessarily lead to extra housing in those areas where the shortage is notional rather than actual. As build-out is entirely subject to the business strategies of developers, and as their businesses flourish because low supply equals high prices, there is no incentive to encourage building in this scenario. Additionally, Local Authorities have been landed with responsibilities that they no powers to enforce.
In Cheshire East we have many thousands of permissions and very low build-out rates. The developers are very honest, in their company statements, about the fact that their business models benefit from land-banking and they have been equally open in Local Plan meetings that they do not anticipate increasing the currently low build-out rates. In fact they would like to reduce them. This will enable them to demand more and more permissions in those areas, such as our villages, where elite housing is likely to bring higher prices. It is no coincidence that the 9 houses at the side of Astbury Mere are being marketed at prices between £450,000 and £600,000. Who does this benefit in a town that is crying out for inexpensive housing for our young people? Something that the system is strikingly failing to deliver.
Many man hours and much money has been spent to create strategic plans which are then completely ignored. It is a sheer waste of public money, of officer time and of community goodwill, to expect communities to engage in a complex policy of strategic plans that the Government itself constantly undermines. It is difficult to believe that the Ministers really comprehend the way in which this policy is working and it does not reflect with credit on the Government.
As constituents, we should like to know what action you propose to take to bring Mr Clark to some recognition of the realities of his policy and to make some changes to this disgraceful state of affairs.
Email Reply from Fiona Bruce MP – 28 February 2016:
I contacted Mr Clarke only recently by letter regarding this very issue and will arrange reply I received to be sent to you. I have also previously raised this issue personally with him. I entirely agree the position is unsatisfactory and will arrange to meet him again and take your email with me