Question 24/17

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Question 24/17

Q. Please explain why planning and other services could not be devolved to a Bexhill town council. If Bexhill has its own council, it should plan for Bexhill. I am writing to Sajid David to ask for clarification for democracy in local government. (09/09/2017)

A.  There are some services that the District Council is unable, by law to devolve to a Town or Parish Council; this includes regulatory matters such as Planning and Licensing.  Other services, such as the provision of public toilets, parks and open spaces, are services which can be devolved to a more local level, with the agreement of both the District Council and the Town or Parish Council.

Rother District Council is the local planning authority (LPA) that is empowered by law to exercise statutory town planning functions for the Rother District.  No third tier of local government (Town or Parish Councils) across the country is empowered to be the LPA and no Town or Parish Council, outside of Bexhill-on-Sea, within the Rother District has the ability to determine its own planning applications.

The responsibilities of Rother District Council as the local planning authority is not just limited to determining local planning applications, these include;

· Producing a local plan: This is a framework for the future development of an area defining strategic policies, the framework for neighbourhood plans, land allocations, infrastructure requirements, housing needs, requirements for safeguarding the environment, measures for adapting to climate change and so on.

· Determining planning applications: Decisions about straight-forward applications will be made under powers delegated to planning officers. More significant or contentious applications will be decided by the LPA's planning committee, made up of local councillors. In determining planning applications the local planning authority will consult with the local community, statutory consultees and non-statutory consultees (including Town and Parish Councils).

· Enforcement: Acting proportionately in response to suspected breaches of planning control.

· Supporting neighbourhood planning.

A Bexhill Town Council would however be able to make its own Neighbourhood Plan.  The Localism Act (2011) introduced several new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development, including the provision to prepare a 'Neighbourhood Plan' for their area.  A neighbourhood plan can set out policies for the location of houses, shops, and offices, or set design standards for new development.

In "parished" areas, Neighbourhood Plans can only be undertaken by the relevant Town or Parish Council or combination of Town/Parish Councils if the area straddles boundaries. Elsewhere, they may be prepared by a duly constituted 'neighbourhood forum'.

Preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan is optional; it is effectively an alternative to a Parish or Town Council working in partnership with the District Council.  Like Local Plans, Neighbourhood Plans are statutory plans, the process for which is legally prescribed, and, when made, form part of the 'development plan' for the area.

All Neighbourhood Plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies for an area (which is generally taken to be a Council's Core Strategy or equivalent Local Plan) as well as have regard to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and accord with European Legislation. (11/09/2017)

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