Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Stop holding up neighbourhood plans, says MP

A DELAY in the completion of Benson and Watlington’s neighbourhood plans must be overcome as quickly as possible, says Henley MP John Howell.

Referenda on both plans have been put back until next year because Natural England has not yet completed a habitats regulations assessment needed for South Oxfordshire District Council’s local plan.

The survey looks at the impact of development on protected areas and special areas of conservation.

Mr Howell said: “Neighbourhood plans were supposed to be simple documents produced by communities but we are making them ever more complicated by the inclusion, for example, of assessments under the habitats regulation assessment. 

“If neighbourhood plans identify sites within them I agree that they have to have some form of habitat assessment but the burden of this is falling in the wrong place.

“Secondly, the length of time being taken to complete the work has held up the approval and referenda of neighbourhood plans. 

“In these two cases the neighbourhood plans are urgently required to make sense of a plan for new housing and development and to ensure that speculative development of houses in the wrong places does not succeed.”

Mr Howell, who has written to Sajid Javid, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, added: “I urge Natural England to rapidly pursue the work.”

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