What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
The idea behind the Government’s localism agenda is that decision-making should be passed to a more local level, from national and regional level to local government, and from local government to local communities.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. It may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development. It may deal with a wide range of social, economic environmental issues or it may focus on one or two issues only.
A Neighbourhood Plan will be part of the statutory development plan for the area. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than some other local documents, such as parish plans, community plans and village design statements. Neighbourhood Plans have real legal force.
Neighbourhood Plans are led by authorised local community organisations rather than the local council’s planning department. This means that community representatives write the plan themselves.
Those preparing plans need to engage properly with the wider community right from the beginning of the plan-preparation process, to make sure that it genuinely represents the range of wants and needs in the local area.
Bringing the Plan into Force
There are safeguards to make sure that the Neighbourhood Plan is acceptable to the community. Before submission to the local authority, there is a six week (pre-submission) consultation period during which the plan must be publicised to bring it to the attention of those who live, work and run businesses in the neighbourhood area as well as the County Council, the Parish Councils, the Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage.
After the Plan has been submitted, it is subject to Independent Examination before being modified, if necessary. The Plan is then subject to a Referendum in the neighbourhood area.
Once a Neighbourhood Plan is brought into legal force, it forms part of the statutory Development Plan for that area. Consequently, decisions on whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area will need to be made in accordance with the Neighbourhood Development Plan.
Having a plan in place is just part of the story – just as important is seeing those ambitions materialise as real changes on the ground.
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