What is 'Neighbourhood Planning' ?
Neighbourhood Planning is a right for communities, introduced through the Localism Act 2011, under which communities can shape development in their areas through the production of Neighbourhood Development Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.
Neighbourhood Development Plans, when ‘made’, become part of the Local Authority ‘Local Plan’ and the policies contained within them are then used, alongside the policies in the Local Plan, in the determination of planning applications within the area covered by the Neighbourhood Plan. Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders allow communities to grant planning permission either in full or in outline for the types of development they want to see in their areas.
It is important to understand that the policies in a Neighbourhood Plan must have regard to national policies and not conflict with policies set out in the Local Plan, nor can they block development that is already proposed as part of the Local Plan. However what they can do is shape where that development will go and what it will look like.
How does it work ?
The local parish or town council is the ‘Qualifying body’ and will lead on neighbourhood planning in their areas. Where one does not exist then a community group known as a neighbourhood forum needs to be established to lead. The Localism Act recognises that not all communities are residential in nature and as such in areas that are predominantly commercial then a business led neighbourhood forum can be established. Once an area is Designated by the Local Authority the Qualifying Body for the Neighbourhood plan is the Parish or Town Council or the Neighbourhood Forum
The Local Planning Authority is involved and will make decisions at key stages of the process, such as approving the neighbourhood area within which the Neighbourhood Development Plan will have effect. The draft plans and orders must also pass checks, both by the local planning authority and by an independent external examiner, This is to check that the plan or order meets certain minimum conditions. If the plan passes these checks it must then be put to a local referendum which the local planning authority which will pay for and run. If the majority (50%+1 of those who vote) are in favour the local planning authority must adopt the plan. The referendum is an important part of the process allowing those that live in the neighbourhood area to decide whether or not the Neighbourhood Development Plan, Neighbourhood Development Order or Community Right to Build Order comes into effect or not. This is direct democracy and outlines the importance of working with the wider community and securing their support at an early stage in the process.
Who can prepare Neighbourhood Plans ?
Neighbourhood Plans may be developed by Parish or Town councils, or a Neighbourhood Forum. An application to a Local Authority for an area to be Designated as a Neighbourhood Development Plan area can be any area, and include land within the boundaries of one or more civil parishes, or a designated area with a single civil parish. However the area designated for most Neighbourhood Plans follows the boundary of a single civil parish. Once an area is Designated by the Local Authority the Qualifying Body for the Neighbourhood plan is the Parish or Town Council or the Neighbourhood Forum.
How is a Neighbourhood Plan prepared ?
Neighbourhood Plans are normally developed by a community working together to decide how their local area should develop and grow in the future, although most Neighbourhood Plan teams have found that they have also benefitted from some level of professional external support. Neighbourhood planning is not compulsory, and is an option available to Parish and Town Councils and Neighbourhood Forums.
What influence does a Neighbourhood Plan have ?
While a Neighbourhood Plan can influence the type, design, location and mix of new development, it cannot block any new development required by the Local Plan to meet the Local Authority’s existing and future needs. A Neighbourhood Plan cannot include Policies which relate to matters which are determined at a level above the Local Authority i.e. at County or Government level, (e.g. education, minerals and highways), although it can include aspirational statements that cover matters within these areas.
When a Neighbourhood Plan has been ‘made’ (i.e. the plan has been through all the formal process reviews, been endorsed by a local referendum and then formally adopted by the local Authority as part of the Local Development Framework suite of documents) the Local Authority are statutorily required to apply the Policies in the Neighbourhood Plan to any planning application in the same manner and to the same extent as though they were policies in the main ‘Local Plan’.
What is involved and when can we start ?
Local communities can start the early preparation of Neighbourhood plans at any time.
The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 outline detailed requirements for neighbourhood planning. This includes the procedures for designating a neighbourhood area and forum, and making neighbourhood development plans, neighbourhood development orders and Community Right to Build Orders. Note that Government is currently working on production of further regulations on neighbourhood planning and neighbourhood planning referendums and guidance on this which will follow later this year.
Are any other communities in Warwickshire already working on a Neighbourhood Plan?
Yes, lots. These links lead to details of plans either already made and fully in place, currently under consultation or still in development:
· The following County Council websites also offer excellent guidance and support on Neighbourhood Planning, although there are probably many others that I have not found yet:
Are there other types of plan, other than a full Neighbourhood Development plan ?
A Neighbourhood Plan sets out the Vision and Objectives, Policies (with supporting evidence) and general development principles for a designated area. There are two other types of planning powers local communities can use:
All three types of neighbourhood planning powers can be used either exclusively or in conjunction with each other. This does not affect the ability for local areas to continue to prepare Parish (or Community) Plans or Village Design Statements.
What support is available ?
Neighbourhood plans are prepared by local communities but the Local Authority has a legal obligation to assist, and provide guidance and technical assistance when necessary. However there is no obligation on a Local Authority to provide financial support to a community who are developing a Neighbourhood Plan. The Government has funded four independent organisations to support the preparation of neighbourhood plans:
Is grant funding available to help communities develop a Neighbourhood Plan ?
Yes, you can apply from the mycommunity.org.uk website. Typically an amount of about £9000 per plan may be available, but the sum is variable depending on a range of factors. Check their website for details.
Where can I find more information? (Also look at our Resources page here)
There is a wealth of information available from a wide variety of sources, some of which are listed below:
- The My Community website also contains lots of helpful information, including help with NDP policies, engaging with stakeholders, avoiding legal challenges and technical support advice from experts in the field. The links on this page about resources are particularly useful;
- The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has published the following guides::