Paragraph Additional content published 13 May 2020
Reference ID: 41-107-20200513
What changes have been introduced to neighbourhood planning in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
The government has been clear that all members of society are required to adhere to guidance to help combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance has implications for neighbourhood planning including: the referendum process; decision-making; oral representations for examinations; and public consultation. This planning guidance supersedes any relevant aspects of current guidance on neighbourhood planning, including in paragraphs 007, 056, 057, 061 and 081 until further notice.
Referendums: All neighbourhood planning referendums that have been recently cancelled, or are scheduled to take place, between 16 March 2020 and 5 May 2021 are postponed in line with the Local Government and Police and Crime Commissioner (Coronavirus) (Postponement of Elections and Referendums) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 until 6 May 2021.
Decision-making: Where the local planning authority has issued a decision statement (as set out under Regulation 18 of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012) detailing its intention to send a neighbourhood plan to referendum, that plan can be given significant weight in decision-making, so far as the plan is material to the application.
Examinations: The general rule remains that examinations should be
conducted by written representations. If an examiner considers that oral representations are necessary, these should not take place in person. Wherever possible, oral representations may still take place using video conferencing or other suitable technologies.
Public consultation: The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 require neighbourhood planning groups and local planning authorities to undertake publicity in a manner that is likely to bring it to the attention of people who live, work or carry on business in the neighbourhood area at particular stages of the process. It is not
mandatory that engagement is undertaken using face-to-face methods.
However, to demonstrate that all groups in the community have been
sufficiently engaged, such as with those without internet access, more
targeted methods may be needed including by telephone or in writing.
Local planning authorities may be able to advise neighbourhood planning groups on suitable methods and how to reach certain groups in the community.
There are also requirements in the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 that require at some stages of the process for neighbourhood planning groups and local planning authorities to publicise the neighbourhood planning proposal and publish details of where and when documents can be inspected. It is not mandatory for copies of documents to be made available at a physical location. They may be held available online. Local planning authorities may be able to advise neighbourhood planning groups on suitable methods that will provide communities with access to physical copies of documents.