Currently underway in Central Bedfordshire is a consultation called ‘Shaping where you live 2035.’ This consultation sits outside of the statutory consultation defined by Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. Central Bedfordshire Council’s Local Development Scheme sets out the timetable for the delivery of its Local Plan. According to this timetable Regulation 18 consultation starts in December 2016 and ends in February 2017. There will also be a further opportunity to comment on the plan when Regulation 19 consultation starts in July 2017 and ends in September 2017. The plan will then be submitted to the Secretary of State during December 2017 and its public examination will start in March 2018.
‘Shaping where you live 2035’ has no significance in planning as this consultation’s outcome will not be considered by a Planning Inspector during the Local Plan’s public examination. Nevertheless the Procedural Practice in the Examination of Local Plans 2016, the ‘Gold Book’, directs an Inspector to consider the outcomes of Regulation 18 and 19 consultations when judging whether a Local Plan is sound. Given the significance in planning practice of Regulation 18 and 19 consultations Town & Parish Councils, local groups and the public affected by the Central Bedfordshire Local Plan should prioritise their responses to these consultations over their response to the ‘Shaping where you live 2035’ consultation. Town & Parish Council’s with emerging Neighbourhood Plans should also consider how their residents’ response to the shaping where you live consultation impacts their emerging Neighbourhood Plans.
The Public Examination of a Local Plan is the means for judging a plan legally compliant and sound. The public can participate in the examination if they are seeking to change the plan and have indicated they wish to attend the examination at the time they respond to statutory consultation. Generally Town & Parish Council’s, local groups and the public do not attend examinations of Local Plans and as a consequence the views of property owners, developers and Local Authorities are the only views heard. This democratic imbalance can be remedied if all those whose interests are affected by a Local Plan and who seek to change it attend the examination to ensure their views are heard.