7. Information to submit alongside a Local Place Plan
7.1 With regard to additional information that should be submitted alongside an LPP, the consultation paper suggested a minimum requirement could be that the community body provides evidence that it has complied with the statutory requirements for preparing the plan. This would assist the planning authority in registering the LPP as being 'valid'. Requirements could be:
- How the community body has had regard to the NPF, LDP and, if one is in place, the relevant Locality Plan.
- Set out the reasons for considering that the LDP should be amended.
- In preparing the LPP, it has sought the views of local ward councillors for the area.
- Evidence that it has complied with any prescribed requirements as to the form and content of the LPP.
- Evidence that the community body has complied with any legal requirement to consult the community after preparing the LPP.
Question 9: Do you agree that, alongside the LPP itself, the community body should submit a statement on how it has complied with the legal requirements?
Please comment on your answer (particularly if you do not agree).
7.2 Responses at Question 9 by respondent type are set out in Table 7.1 below.
|% of individuals answering||69%||21%||10%|
|Community Council or Trust||20||9||6||35|
|Local Authority, Community Planning Partnership or Transport Partnership||29||2||0||31|
|Other - Private Sector||8||0||0||8|
|Third Sector or Voluntary Group||19||2||2||23|
|% of organisations answering||80%||12%||9%|
|% of respondents answering||76%||15%||9%|
7.3 A majority of those who answered the question - 76% - agreed that the community body should submit a statement on how it has complied with the legal requirements, while 15% disagreed and 9% had no view. Those who disagreed were predominantly Individual and Community Council or Trust respondents.
7.4 Around 135 respondents provided an additional comment at Question 9.
Views of those who agreed
7.5 Some respondents who agreed saw a statement on how the community body has complied with legal requirements as useful, essential, or as important to ensure transparency, credibility and trust in the process. The statement was also thought to strengthen and validate the LPP and to help to provide consistency. In the absence of an appropriate evidence base for an LPP, it was suggested sections of a related LDP could be the subject of objections that would have to be considered at Examination.
7.6 Some Local Authority respondents offered a list of specific elements they thought should be included in a statement on how the community body has complied with legal requirements.
7.7 Respondents also argued the requirement should be light touch, as straightforward as possible, or should not be too onerous or complex and should not create a disincentive to a community engaging in local place planning. The need for simplicity was cited – with some seeing the statement as a simple check list, log, or proforma. It was suggested such an approach would also aid local authorities to say objectively that an LPP has complied with legal requirements and, as a tool to aid compliance, could avoid the potential for legal challenge later on.
7.8 Other respondents pointed to the need to provide communities with resources to complete the statement or a requirement for suitably qualified support, potentially from the local authority.
7.9 Producing a statement was argued to be helpful for the community body to identify potential compliance issues, with a suggestion that a checklist / proforma could be used as a tool to identify and meet requirements during the development of the LPP, rather than as a task to be completed at the end.
7.10 Some Local Authority respondents thought the registration of a valid LPP should be seen as the end point of a collaborative process between the community body and the planning authority. For example, rather than simply submitting a statement at the end of the process, it was suggested a framework could be put in place to support community organisations, beginning with an inception meeting at which a set of milestones for production of the LPP might be agreed.
7.11 Other points were raised in relation to the timeframes for submission of LPPs. It was suggested that, to have most chance of inclusion in the LDP, LPPs will need to be front loaded in the LDP process and that the implications of the timing their LPPs should be made clear to communities. Setting out timescales for submission of LPPs in the formal invitation to prepare an LPP issued by the planning authority was proposed.
7.12 The need for clarification on responsibility for ensuring compliance was also suggested. It was argued that regulations and guidance need to be very clear on how a planning authority will assess the validity of an LPP since decisions to give regard to some elements of LPPs but not to others will have to be defended. The validation process for LPPs was considered likely to place additional demands on planning and community planning teams, and both additional training needs and upskilling were suggested to be necessary in addition to revenue funding.
7.13 The importance of guidance was highlighted, with suggestions or expectations that:
- Guidance should clearly set out what a statement should contain, including proforma statements where possible.
- The importance of legal requirements will be explicitly highlighted and discussed in any accompanying 'How to' Guide.
- Guidance should recommend appointing a chronicler for the duration of the LPP process with a duty to become sufficiently familiar with the framework to ensure compliance.
- Advice around impact assessment should be provided since some legal duties may apply.
7.14 Some respondents commented specifically on the additional material set out in paragraph 80 of the consultation paper, with comments including suggestions that the statement should incorporate:
- Information on participation – for example how a community body has engaged with the wider community, including how they have promoted and facilitated participation by different interest groups, who has been engaged, and how the comments of those who participated have been taken into account.
- Information on delivery proposals for the LPP including timescales, and consideration given to involving other partners / organisations and potential funding sources.
7.15 However, an alternative view was that inclusion of additional material set out in paragraph 80 would place an additional burden on planning authorities in assessing LPPs.
7.16 Other proposals included:
- A pre-registration step in the LPP preparation process involving independent review of whether the LPP complies with the legal requirements, including the requirement to have regard to the LDP (and other specified matters).
- Inclusion of a light touch environmental assessment or reference to climate change / environment factors, given the significance of the climate change agenda.
- Inclusion of where advice from relevant stakeholders, including public agencies, has been taken into account in the preparation of an LPP.
7.17 It was also argued, as at other questions, that all relevant information should form part of the LPP submission rather than as additional documents.
7.18 Specific comments with respect to the wording of the consultation paper included that the requirement to set out 'reasons for considering the LDP should be amended' referenced at paragraph 79 may be misleading to communities and should be clarified. It was noted that, although planning authorities must take LPPs into account when amending their plans, there is no power in the 2019 Act for LPPs to amend the LDP.
Views of those who did not agree
7.19 Among respondents who did not agree that there should be a statement, reasons given included views that:
- There should be no legal requirements.
- This is too onerous a requirement or places another burden on community bodies that are run by volunteers. Community bodies will generally not have the expertise to confirm compliance with legal requirements.
- If a compliance statement is linked to validity of a LPP, then there is risk that a community body may come into conflict with a planning authority.
- Any inaccuracy or incompleteness could be a target for lawyers seeking to have an LPP set aside.
- The local authority not the community body should decide whether the LPP meets legal requirements.
- All relevant information should form part of the LPP, rather than being submitted separately.
7.20 Additionally, several respondents who did not answer the closed question or had no view, noted that their approval or otherwise would depend what the requirements were.
7.21 Respondents who thought there should be no statutory requirement argued that, while a community body should satisfy itself that it has met requirements laid down in law, they should not be expected to provide a quasi-legal statement on compliance. It was suggested that although it would be reasonable to encourage a community body to include materials to illustrate it has complied with legal requirements in order to strengthen the case being made in the LPP, it should not be mandatory to do so.
7.22 It was also argued that, if they exist at all, any legal requirements must be simple enough that the community body can comply without needing legal advice and that a template should be provided.
7.23 Again reflecting views of some respondents who had agreed there should be a statement on legal requirements, some respondents who did not agree also favoured the idea of a more collaborative approach between community bodies and local authorities, and development of a validation framework.
7.24 Other suggestions included that rather than a separate statement, the community body should be asked to state how it has complied with the legal requirements within the LPP, particularly where it diverges from approved/ adopted community planning partnership plans, the LDP, or a current planning permission.
7.25 Specific comments with respect to the wording of the consultation paper included that:
- Paragraph 79 implies that the community body must have a full understanding of the NPF, LDP and Locality Plan when the community may disagree with any of these.
- More detail is needed with respect to the requirement to 'set out the reasons for considering that the local development plan should be amended'. This should include what type of reasons will be considered acceptable, and how the planning authority should act if they disagree with reasons given in the LPP.