Decision Maker: Officer Delegated Decision
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: No
Reason for Decision
Dorset Council has received a neighbourhood plan area application from Weymouth Town Council.
Neighbourhood Planning (General) and Development Management Procedure (Amendment) Regulations 2016, Regulation 5A states that where:
a) a local planning authority receives an area application from a parish council;
b) the area specified in the application consists of the whole of the parish council’s area; and
c) if any part of the specified area is part of a neighbourhood plan area, none of that neighbourhood area extends outside the parish council’s area;
the local planning authority must exercise their powers under section 61G of the 1990 Act to designate the specified area as a neighbourhood plan area.
Regulation 5A also states that where this regulation applies, regulations 6 and 6A (which require consultation) do not apply.
These provisions are summarised in Paragraph 032 (Reference ID: 41-032-20170728) of the neighbourhood planning section of the national Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). This states:
“Where a parish council applies for the whole of the area of the parish to be designated as a neighbourhood area, the local planning authority must designate the whole of the area applied for. This includes where a parish applies to extend its existing neighbourhood area to its parish boundary. Exceptions to this are where the area applied for:
· has already been designated as a neighbourhood area which extends beyond the parish boundary; or
· forms part of another application that has not yet been determined.”
Other provisions in the 2016 Regulations also indicate that in the circumstances outlined above, there is no requirement for a local planning authority to consult on the proposed neighbourhood plan area. However, the responsibility for designation still rests with the Council.
In the case of Weymouth Town Council, they are a qualifying body applying for the whole of their parish area to be designated and none of the exceptions in Paragraph 032 of the neighbourhood planning section of the PPG apply. Weymouth Town Council do however have an existing Neighbourhood Area already designated in their area (the Sutton Poyntz NP area) inherited from the former Sutton Poyntz Society (a NP Forum). The Neighbourhood Forum ceased on the 1st April 2019 with all Neighbourhood Planning responsibility transferred to Weymouth Town Council at that time. The Sutton Poyntz NP was ‘made’ on 5th May 2020 with the Sutton Poyntz area no longer required to progress this plan. Their proposed application is therefore in effect an extension to their existing Neighbourhood Area up to its full parish boundary and a change in its name from Sutton Poyntz to Weymouth. PPG, paragraph 032 specifically mentions and supports this scenario with two exceptions of which neither applies.
Under the 2016 Regulations there is, therefore, no requirement to consult on the application and the Council “must designate the whole of the area applied for”.
Scheme of delegation
Under the officer scheme of delegation (April 2019), the Executive Director of Place has the power to “make a final determination as to whether to designate a neighbourhood plan area and/or make such an area a business area”.
The Local Scheme of Nomination (April 2019) sets out which functions have been nominated by the Executive Director of Place and any conditions or limitations. This includes the power “to designate neighbourhood plan areas (where the Council must exercise its powers to designate the specified area applied for as a neighbourhood plan area) and neighbourhood forums”. The only condition / limitation is that the “Ward members and the relevant Portfolio Holder being informed”.
Alternative options considered and rejected
As a valid application has been received from Weymouth Town Council, the Council must designate a neighbourhood area.
Section 61H of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended by the Localism Act 2011, requires that when designating a neighbourhood area, a local planning authority should consider whether the area concerned should be designated as a business area. If a business area is designated, local businesses would have the opportunity to be more involved in the formation of the neighbourhood plan and would get an opportunity to vote (alongside registered electors) in the later referendum on whether the neighbourhood plan should come into force. However, this section of the Act also makes it clear that a neighbourhood area should only be designated as a business area if it is “wholly or predominantly business in nature”.
Although the proposed Weymouth neighbourhood area contains a town centre and several industrial estates (Mount Pleasant Business Park), it also includes areas of residential development and significant areas of countryside and on this basis it is not considered appropriate to designate the neighbourhood area as a business area.
That the neighbourhood plan area following the parish boundary of Weymouth, as proposed by, Weymouth Town Council, be designated.
It is not proposed to designate the Weymouth neighbourhood area as a business area.
Scheme of delegation (April 2019) delegation No 138, additional delegations to the Executive Director, Place.
(Decisions included can be executive or non-executive in nature, depending on the delegation given. Please state if the delegation was granted by the Cabinet or any other Committee or is detailed within the Scheme of Delegation in the Council’s Constitution.)
Publication date: 08/07/2020
Date of decision: 06/07/2020