What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

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What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Local communities are now able to produce Neighbourhood Plans for their neighbourhood, putting in place a vision and policies for the future development of their area. The plan can be used to choose where new homes, shops and employment should be built, protect important local green spaces and influence what new buildings should look like.

A plan could be wide-ranging, or deal with one or two issues only. It could be detailed, or simply set general principles for development.

Neighbourhood Plans were introduced through the Localism Act in 2011 and the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations have been in place since April 2012.

Who prepares the plan?

Neighbourhood Plans are prepared by town or parish councils, where these exist, or by a neighbourhood forum. Once the neighbourhood area is approved, the local planning authority has a duty to support and advise neighbourhood groups which are seeking to take forward a neighbourhood plan.

What factors need to be considered before deciding whether to produce a Neighbourhood Plan?

  • Scope of the Plan and the Neighbourhood Area– This will depend on what is already covered in the Core Strategy, the nature of the area in question and the community’s preferred outcomes.
  • Adequacy of Existing Policy – This depends on the adequacy of existing local policies contained in the Local Plan (Core Strategy). If the existing policy is robust, up-to-date and relevant to the neighbourhood area, then there may be no need for a Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Compliance with National and Local Planning Policies– All Neighbourhood Plans must have regard to national planning policy and be in general conformity with the strategic policies in any up-to-date adopted or emerging Local Plan or Core Strategy. For example, whilst communities will have influence over what housing will look like and where it will go they will not be able to stop it altogether when there is a housing need identified for their area in a Local Plan or Core Strategy. Neighbourhood Plans must also be compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements.
  • Skills and Qualities– Leading the production of a Neighbourhood Plan will require a range of skills.
  • Alternatives to a Neighbourhood Plan– Other options to consider would be an Area Action Plan, supplementary planning document or more informal parish plans or community plans. Communities can also engage in the production of the Local Plan by the local authority to ensure it reflects their aspirations.
  • Time and Energy– There will be significant commitments in terms of time and energy over a period of months or even years.
  • Financial Resources– there will be costs associated with preparing the plan. Some of these will be met by the local planning authority but other costs will need to be found by the parish/town council or neighbourhood forum. There may be some funding opportunities available.

How should the Plan be produced?

There are three main stages to producing a Neighbourhood Plan. These are:

Stage 1 – Getting Established

The first step for parish/town or prospective neighbourhood forums is to contact the local planning authority to discuss what the current polices are for your area and how a Neighbourhood Plan might supplement these. A proposed neighbourhood area will then need to be submitted to the local planning authority for designation. Prospective neighbourhood forums will also need to be designated by the local planning authority.

Stage 2 – Preparing the Plan

This includes publicity, development of local partnerships, community consultation and engagement and the building of an evidence base. This will inform the development of a vision and/or aims for the plan. These in turn will inform the formulation of policy, proposals and site allocations. Community engagement will be necessary at all stages of the plan-making process.

Stage 3 – Bringing the Plan into Force

The proposed neighbourhood plan will be submitted to the local planning authority which will check that proper procedures have been followed in its preparation and that any necessary assessments accompany the plan. Following a period of publicity, the local planning authority will arrange for an independent examination and organise the public referendum.

Where can I find out more information?

Contact Checkley Parish Council:                                    info@checkleyparishcouncil.co.uk

Contact Staffordshire Moorlands District Council:       forward.plans@staffsmoorlands.gov.uk

Or find more information on Staffordshire                     http://www.staffsmoorlands.gov.uk/

Moorlands District Council’s website: