Neighbourhood Planning

Neighbourhood Planning has its origins in the Localism Bill, 2012, allowing communities to engage directly in the future planning of their area. It brings new powers to choose where local communities want new homes, shops and offices to be built, to have a say on what new development should look like and through Neighbourhood Development Orders, grant planning permission for new buildings that it wants to see developed.

The Government is providing funding to support local councils involved in preparing Neighbourhood Plans and Development Orders and taking them through the statutory processes. However, many Councils will require expertise and assistance, much of which can be provided by professional planning consultancies such as The Planning Group Ltd.

Stage 1: Defining the neighbourhood  

Local communities should identify the ‘neighbourhood’, though Town or Parish Councils will normally take the lead on the plan and may aggregate a number of individual parishes rather than one administrative area. The Council(s) will usually form a steering group to oversee the management of the plan, which will be tasked with reporting back at appropriate stages.

Stage 2: Plan Preparation

The principal task involves the preparation of the plan, which will normally require professional assistance. It will establish a vision for the future and it can be detailed, identifying specific parcels of land for development, together with development appraisals of site options, or more general, depending upon what local people want. Local people can choose to draw up a plan or a Neighbourhood Development Order, or both, provided that they follow due procedure.

Stage 3: Independent scrutiny  

Neighbourhood plans must be subject to independent examination, often in the form of written representations to a professionally qualified arbiter, who may recommend changes in the light of comments received.

Stage 4: Community referendum

Once finalised, the plan must be subject to a local referendum and have majority support from the local community that chooses to vote. Where the plan has implications for neighbouring communities, they will also be entitled to vote.

Stage 5: Legal status

Once in place, a neighbourhood plan has legal weight, so those involved in making planning decisions, usually the local planning authority, will be legally obliged to take the plan into account when they consider development proposals in the neighbourhood. In those cases where a Neighbourhood Development Order has been adopted, the Council(s) will have the power to grant planning permission for complying development proposals.

Whilst the preparation of neighbourhood plans may appear onerous, the rewards are significant, allowing local people to shape the places they live in without the plan-making strictures often adopted by local planning authorities. 

Please contact us for further information and advice.