This is an issue being repeated all over the country. Here in Dorset, the Arne Neighbourhood Plan has received its final examiners report. Dorset Council considered the recommendations contained in the report and agreed the plan as modified could proceed to referendum. The regulations linked to the Coronavirus Act 2020 mean that no elections or referendums can take place until 6 May 2021. This includes neighbourhood planning referendums. These measures mean that neighbourhood and other plans may come into force later than they would otherwise have done.
In recognition of this the Government has updated current planning guidance to set out that neighbourhood plans awaiting referendums can be given significant weight in decision-making, so far as the plan is material to the application.
As Dorset Council has issued a Decision Statement detailing its intention to send the Arne Neighbourhood Plan to referendum, consequently, this plan may now be given significant weight in decision making.
Alan Davies (Associate Director) advises “this is something to be mindful of and ensure the appropriate weighting to emerging plan policies is given when considering development proposals”.