IN the recent consultation about site allocations there were proposals to change the boundaries of some villages in order to accommodate more housing. The settlement boundaries of Bradford-on-Avon, Devizes, Great Somerford, Holt, Pewsey, Potterne, Porton and Urchfont were not reviewed as they had neighbourhood plans. They had, of course, been through long and rigorous appraisals during the formulation of their neighbourhood plans.

These plans provide for the number of houses allocated in the Wiltshire Core Strategy and are in accordance with its policies. It is comforting to know that the work these towns and parishes have already done has served them in good stead and means they are not affected by the current search for further development sites.

Currently the planning structure consists of three tiers: government guidance in the form of the National Planning Policy guidance, county and unitary Local Plans or Core Strategies, and town or parish neighbourhood development plans. These have the force of law. If there is the likelihood of pressure for development, then it is very much in the interests of the town or parish council to have a neighbourhood plan which sets out the wishes of local people for how, where and what kind of development should take place and which areas of open space need to be protected as well as any other particular needs.

There is no doubt about the amount of work involved but the trail has been blazed and much can be gleaned from reading one or more of the adopted neighbourhood plans of similar sized towns or villages in a similar area.

Parishes with neighbourhood plans also collect 25 per cent of the contributions from the developers towards the community infrastructure levy (CIL) as opposed to 15 per cent for parishes without one.

However, it used to be much simpler. A parish council received a share from what was known as 106 money and could accumulate it if necessary in order to fund a particular need. Now it is more complicated as there are two levies, CIL and Section 106 agreements/planning obligations.

The Government’s intention with CIL is for development contributions to go towards providing infrastructure that becomes needed because of cumulative developments. To mirror this the county has a list of infrastructure projects. Section 106 agreements, on the other hand, are restricted to site specific needs for infrastructure.

So the parishes with neighbourhood plans are no longer able to accumulate Section 106 money. They receive a paltry 25 per cent of CIL contributions to fund all the needs listed in their adopted plans. Worse still, Government has effectively taken away the ability for councils to require affordable housing on schemes of less than 10 houses in an effort to encourage a faster supply of houses. This has resulted in building more expensive homes and an ever decreasing number of affordable homes.

There is hope for a review of developer contributions in the autumn budget.

Neighbourhood plans are the third tier of government and their needs for funding should surely be addressed. Parishes with an adopted neighbourhood plan have demonstrated a strong community and the ability to cope.

They are desperate to provide affordable and social housing and do not want to see all their sites taken for the more expensive market housing. When will the government realise that the aim of building a faster supply of housing, as opposed to aiming for the right type of housing, shows how out of touch they are with the real need?