In order not to frustrate NDP groups that have been working hard on their Plans, MHCLG have updated their Neighbourhood Planning guidance to say that neighbourhood plans awaiting referendums can be given significant weight in decision-making.
The details can be found here: MHCLG Guidance on NDPs and Covid-19
It says that ‘Where the local planning authority has issued a decision statement (as set out under Regulation 25 of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012) detailing its intention to send a neighbourhood plan to referendum, that plan can be given significant weight in decision-making, so far as the plan is material to the application.’
So does that mean that if you haven’t got a Reg 25 decision your Plan cannot benefit from the enhanced status of ‘significant weight in decision making’ until after the Covid-19 crisis is resolved, so you may as well ‘park’ your Plan for the time being?
I think the other provisions of the new guidance can be clearly interpreted to allow NDP groups to keep progressing their plans up to the Reg 25 point, and then expect to benefit from the enhanced status.
So the message is, keep going using alternative means of communication!
Apart from anything else, this will keep your networks alive, and maybe even bring fresh impetus as more people become interested because they now have the time to get involved.