Planning for your Education Providers future
With the grant of Royal Assent on 15 November 2011 the Localism Act introduced a new layer of planning policy within the existing planning framework known as Neighbourhood Planning.
The basic principle behind Neighbourhood Planning is to "achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards the local people". The overall intent is for the local community to dictate how development will take place within their area.
Neighbourhood Planning can be taken forward by either, a Town and Parish Council or by a body known as a "Neighbourhood Forum". Should the area of land be within the boundary of a parish then only the relevant Council can benefit from the Neighbourhood Planning powers.
Neighbourhood Forums can take forward Neighbourhood Planning in areas without parishes. Government regulations have imposed set criteria for the creation of Neighbourhood Forums, although the basic principle is that individuals who either live, work or are local councillors in the area can create such a Forum under the supervision of the relevant Local Planning Authority.
Neighbourhood Forums and Town and Parish Councils can use Neighbourhood Planning powers to prepare planning policies for the development and use of the land in that specific neighbourhood, and this can be achieved through the creation of a Neighbourhood Plan.
The creation of a Neighbourhood Plan is by no means simple and involves generally the same procedural requirements as one would expect for any Local Government policy, including significant public consultation, independent examination and, quite uniquely, a local referendum. Equally, the Plan must have regard to national planning policy, be in general conformity with the Local Planning Authority's planning policy and compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements.
However, the result is that of a binding policy document that will provide the local community with a mechanism of stimulating and controlling certain types of development in their area.
The practical implications for any education provider is that a Neighbourhood Plan could potentially provide an established masterplan for the development of their campus that will allow future works to be undertaken without having to go through such intense consultation and costs at every stage of expansion.
Should the education provider be within a parish then enquiries will have to made with the Town or Parish Council as to whether a Plan could be prepared and, if so, whether the provider's campus could form part of the Plan.
Equally, where the education provider is located in an area without a parish there does not appear to be any reason why such an institution could not be the driving force behind the creation of a Neighbourhood Forum and thereafter dictate the content of the Neighbourhood Plan.
We are still in the very early days of Neighbourhood Plans with concerns remaining regarding the significant costs involved and the problematic bureaucratic procedures, but they could represent a unique mechanism for controlling the education provider's development into the future.
This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.