Wye Neighbourhood Plan Review
The Wye Neighbourhood Development Plan 2015-2030 (WNP) provides the adopted planning policy guidance for the parish of Wye. Ashford Borough Council adopted the WNP as part of its Local Plan in October 2016.
Subsequently, the Ashford Local Plan replaced the Core Strategy, and numerous policies have changed since the original 2012 National Planning Policy Framework and Guidance. In 2021 the Government published a new draft National Model Design Code and revised the National Planning Policy Framework. Therefore the Wye Neighbourhood Plan needs to be updated to accord with these current policies, and in particular with the emerging Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and an updated National Planning Policy Framework (expected in September 2023).
Building regulations are not part of the planning process, but they are mandatory, and compliance impacts on the design, materials and appearance of buildings.
In June 2022 significant changes to building regulations have raised the minimum standards required for building performance, specifically for ventilation, energy conservation and overheating. The aim being to reduce the carbon emissions from buildings, and support the transition to electric vehicles, to enable the Government to reach its target of net-zero by 2050.
The new regulations affect new and existing non-domestic buildings, domestic buildings and new and existing housing, including extensions and building conversions.
Wye Neighbourhood Plan Review
The review process
The Government passed the Climate Change Act in 2008. This set binding greenhouse gas emissions targets (net zero by 2050), and created a legal duty to act. The Environment Act followed in 2021. The Planning Bill announced in the Queen's Speech in 2021 added to the context for the Wye Neighbourhood Plan Review (WNPR). For the WNPR to pass its examination stage it must be 'in conformity' with current national planning legislation and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). However, the Government has yet to provide clarity.
In summary, the main elements of the first iteration of the Planning Bill were:
- Changing local plans so that they provide more certainty over the type, scale and design of development permitted on different categories of land.
- Significantly decreasing the time it takes for developments to go through the planning system.
- Replacing the existing systems for funding affordable housing and infrastructure from development with a new more predictable and more transparent levy.
- Reforming the framework for locally led development corporations to ensure local areas have access to appropriate delivery vehicles to support growth and regeneration.
However, the Planning Bill proved highly controversial and politically undeliverable. In particular, its proposal for arbitrary zoning of all land across the whole country, and the removal of local democratic control and a public role at the planning application stage. In July 2021 the Government announced that these proposals were under major review and subsequently dropped its Planning Bill. In its place is the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, (LURB), introduced in May 2022. This draft legislation reached the committee stage in the House of Lords in December 2022.
In July 2023, the LURB has reached the report stage in the House of Lords and it is awaiting its third reading.
The Parish Council is reviewing its draft policies and updating the evidence base while waiting for the government to clarify the planning legislation framework for the WNPR. The Parish Council benefits from the support for this work from experienced planning policy professionals, grant funding from Locality and professional design support from AECOM.
Subject to the timing of the forthcoming LURB and NPPF, and any changes required to the draft text, the first draft of the WNPR document and draft design guide will emerge in autumn 2023 after public engagement events and informal consultations.