If the decision is ultimately not contested in the Court of Appeal or is upheld by the court; does this make the Neighbourhood Forums virtually impotent?
If our interpretation is correct, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) can effectively decide that the Neighbourhood Area has wider planning implications, and, under the auspices of this case, will be able to pull rank and dictate to the Forum.
Therefore any truly local control and consultation under the Localism Act is partially redundant and the whole legislation then becomes LPAs on-high occasionally allowing local forum’s the ability to choose where their local swings should be sited in their designated open space. That is what the Parish Council’s have almost become in Planning terms anyway, so why clutter society up with another pseudo-local group without any power?
This is a worst case scenario and it may be that the fallout from this case rests more on the established planning situation of the two sites in question, both having plans and applications submitted and under review, than on the weakening of powers for the Neighbourhood Forum as a whole. But if future cases support this position of the LPA’s overriding power, then the local Forum cannot truly control or influence locally and the whole exercise becomes a waste of time and resources for the sake of paying lip-service to concerned local voters.