Council leader Garry Wall has petitioned the Government warning that people will become disillusioned if their views over development are not heeded.
Cllr Wall wrote to planning minister Nick Boles MP on May 7, five days after the local elections.
He said: “I know that you are a strong advocate of the Neighbourhood Planning process and for this reason I am writing to you on behalf (of) this Council and the 19 Town and Parish Councils within the District that are currently preparing Neighbourhood Plans.
“We are concerned about the very limited weight being afforded to emerging Neighbourhood Plans by the Planning Inspectorate and are fearful that this may have the effect of undermining the confidence of local people in this important process.”
Cllr Wall says eight of the 19 parish councils developing Neighbourhood Plans - the largest number in the country - are government ‘Frontrunners’ and four are at the stage of publishing their draft plans for public consultation under the Government’s 2012 legislation. The furthest ahead is Slaugham Parish Council with its final plan in the offing.
Cllr Wall tells Mr Boles that MSDC and parish and town councils share concerns about the Planning Inspectorate’s attitudes to emerging Neighbourhood Plans raised with him by Slaugham Parish Council.
The Mid Sussex Times reported MSDC’s refusal of 51 houses at Pease Pottage in the Slaugham parish, which the Inspector allowed on appeal by developers Redrow when he commented “the Neighbourhood Plan is still at a relatively early stage of its development. Given the uncertainty identified above I consider it can be accorded little weight”.
Cllr Wall writes: “This is very frustrating for those communities that have dedicated significant effort and resources to developing their Neighbourhood Plans. There is a danger that communities will become discouraged by this attitude and abort work on their Neighbourhood Plans. This would be tragic in the context of the enthusiasm local communities have shown for the Neighbourhood Planning process to date and the progress towards a bottom-up, localism-based approach to planning in Mid Sussex.”
Cllr Wall stresses current guidance on the weight to be attached to emerging plans is based on the old system, where plans took much longer to develop. Now, the process is much quicker and there is a strong argument that decision makers, such as MSDC and the Planning Inspectorate, should be able to give more weight to emerging Neighbourhood Plans and show that planning guidance “takes seriously the will of local communities”.
Cllr Wall urges Mr Boles to “consider this serious matter” so more weight can be given to emerging Neighbourhood Plans.