Neighbourhood planning is a great way for communities to have a say on the future of the places where they live and work. It came into effect in April 2012 under the Localism Act.
What can – and can’t – it be used for?
Neighbourhood plans have to conform with Local Development Plans adopted by the Local Planning Authority, so they can’t be used to oppose development approved in this way.
Your community could develop a neighbourhood plan to:
- choose where new homes, shops and offices should be built
- say what those new buildings should look like
- grant planning permission for new buildings that fit with your plan.
Who can develop a Neighbourhood Plan?
All community members can get involved. Neighbourhood planning is led by either the parish or town council, or by a neighbourhood forum.
A neighbourhood forum is a group that has been designated by the local planning authority (usually your borough or district council) to do neighbourhood planning. A forum may already exist in your area, or you may decide to set one up.
How does it work?
Developing a Neighbourhood Plan takes a lot of people’s time and work, so it’s worth being aware of what’s involved before you set out on the process. One good way of doing this and understand the pros and cons is to talk to people in a community that has already done this – the Norfolk Coast Partnership office or your local planning authority may be able to put you in touch with someone.
Developing a Neighbourhood Plan: A brief summary
Step 1: Decide on your neighbourhood area
You will need to decide what area you should plan for the neighbourhood area. You propose the area you want to plan for to the local planning authority. The authority then checks that the area is a sensible one for a plan or development order to cover. If the authority agrees, your proposal comes into effect.
Step 2: Prepare a plan and/or order
As a community, you can choose to draw up a neighbourhood development plan, a neighbourhood development order, or both.
A neighbourhood development plan can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in your neighbourhood, such as where new homes and offices should be built, and what they should look like. The plan can be detailed or general, depending on what local people want.
A neighbourhood development order allows the community to grant planning permission for development that complies with the order. This removes the need for a planning application to be submitted to the local authority.
Neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders must be in line with local and national planning policies. They also can’t be used to block development in line with these.
Development of the plan involves wide public consultation to produce the final plan.
Step 3: Get your plan or order checked
Once you’ve put together your neighbourhood development plan or neighbourhood development order, an independent examiner will check that it meets certain minimum conditions.
If it doesn’t, the examiner will recommend changes. The local planning authority will then need to consider the examiners views and decide whether to make those changes.
If the examiner recommends significant changes, then the parish or town council or neighbourhood forum may decide to consult the local community again before making the changes.
Step 4: Hold a community referendum
Once your neighbourhood development plan or neighbourhood development order has been checked, your community will vote on it. Your local council will organise the local referendum. Everyone who is registered to vote in local elections in your neighbourhood area can vote in the referendum. If your plans have a significant impact on nearby areas, people from those neighbourhoods may be allowed to vote too.
For your neighbourhood development plan or neighbourhood development order to get the go-ahead, more than 50% of the people who vote in the referendum must support it.
Once a neighbourhood development plan or neighbourhood development order is in force, it carries legal weight. Decision-makers will be obliged, by law, to take what it says into account when they consider proposals for development in the neighbourhood.
Support and advice
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) provides information on neighbourhood planning, including a series of newsletters through its Neighbourhood Planning Team.
DCLG provides funding to four organisations already offering support on neighbourhood planning:
- the Royal Town Planning Institute (Planning Aid)
- the Princes Foundation for Building Community
- the Campaign to Protect Rural England, working with the National Association of Local Councils
- Locality (the Building Communities Consortium).
The funding will enable the support providers to offer practical and bespoke advice and assistance to communities leading the way on neighbourhood plans.
Community groups need to contact their local planning authority who have a duty to provide support and advice to groups undertaking neighbourhood planning.
Local businesses, landowners and developers may also be interested in sponsoring and taking a role in neighbourhood planning.
Neighbourhood Plans are being used in other parts of the country to try to manage the levels of second homes. St Ives in Cornwall is a key example, where a policy requiring full-time residency of new houses has been agreed through a referendum.
The Lake District National Park Authority operates a ‘local occupancy’ policy on new houses, where these can only be sold to a person who is employed, about to be employed or was last employed locally, or people who have lived locally for three years or more.
Neighbourhood Plans – Help and advice
There is a lot of information out there on developing your Neighbourhood Plan, as such the following list is not comprehensive:
- Your local planning authority should be your first port of call.
- Anyone considering a Neighbourhood plan needs to read and understand their local planning authority’s Local plan:
- The Locality quick guide to Neighbourhood plans.
- The Locality comprehensive guide to producing a Neighbourhood plan:
- North Norfolk District council advice on Neighbourhood plans.
- Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk advice on Neighbourhood plans.
- Great Yarmouth borough council advice on Neighbourhood plans.
- What makes the area and landscape so special? The Norfolk Coast Integrated Landscape Character map helps with this, descriptions and guidance
- National Planning Policy Framework, sections relevant to Neighbourhood plans
- Planning Aid Website – Sign up for the Up Front e-bulletin on Neighbourhood planning for upto date info and guidance.
- Herefordshire council’s Neighbourhood planning documents and guidance, a comprehensive and helpful guide for communities on how to undertake a Neighbourhood plan.
- The Good councillor’s guide to neighbourhood planning, published by the National Association of Local Councils (Nalc), it is free to download for Nalc members or £4.99 for non-members.