What is a Neighbourhood Plan
What is it?
Neighbourhood planning is a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work.
They will be able to:
- choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built
- have their say on what those new buildings should look like
- grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead.
When in November 2011 the Localism Bill was passed it gave Neighbourhoods the chance to look at their area and say how they hoped it would develop over the next 15+ years.
Why does it matter?
The planning system helps decide what gets built, where and when. It is essential for supporting economic growth, improving people’s quality of life, and protecting the natural environment.
In theory, planning has always supposed to give local communities a say in decisions that affect them. But in practice, communities have often found it hard to have a meaningful say. The Government wants to put power back in the hands of local residents, business, councils and civic leaders by using a Neighbourhood Plan
Neighbourhood planning is optional, not compulsory. In Scarcroft we have a group of residents who are working to produce a plan because we feel as residents of the village we would like to have a say in its future.
How will it work?
There will be five key stages to neighbourhood planning.
Stage 1: Defining the neighbourhood
In areas with a parish or town council, the parish or town council will take the lead on neighbourhood planning. Scarcroft Parish council have asked the Development Group to take the lead in developing a Neighbourhood Plan by residents for residents.
The Parish council will then need to apply to the local planning authority. It’s the local planning authority’s job to keep an overview of all the different requests to do neighbourhood planning in their area.
They will check that the suggested boundaries for different neighbourhoods make sense and fit together. It is important therefore neighbourhoods work together with areas and boundries that may ‘overlap’.
They will also check that community groups who want to take the lead on neighbourhood planning meet the right standards. The planning authority will say “no” if, for example, the organisation is too small or not representative enough of the local community.
If the local planning authority decides that the community group meets the right standards, the group will be able to call itself a ‘neighbourhood forum’. (This is simply the technical term for groups which have been granted the legal power to do neighbourhood planning.)
The parish council or neighbourhood forum can then get going and start planning for their neighbourhood.
Stage 2: Preparing the plan
Next, local people will begin collecting their ideas together and drawing up their plans.
With a neighbourhood plan, communities will be able to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. They will be able to say, for example, where new homes and offices should be built, and what they should look like. The neighbourhood plan will set a vision for the future. It can be detailed, or general, depending on what local people want
Neighbourhood plans must follow some ground rules:
- They must generally be in line with local and national planning policies
- They must be in line with other laws
- If the local planning authority says that an area needs to grow, then communities cannot use neighbourhood planning to block the building of new homes and businesses. They can, however, use neighbourhood planning to influence the type, design, location and mix of new development.
Stage 3: Independent check
Once a neighbourhood plan or order has been prepared, an independent examiner will check that it meets the right basic standards.
If the plan or order doesn’t meet the right standards, the examiner will recommend changes. The planning authority will then need to consider the examiner’s views and decide whether to make those changes.
If the examiner recommends significant changes, then the parish, town council or neighbourhood forum may decide to consult the local community again before proceeding.
Stage 4: Community referendum
The local council will organise a referendum on any plan or order that meets the basic standards. This ensures that the community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood plan or order comes into force.
People living in the neighbourhood who are registered to vote in local elections will be entitled to vote in the referendum.
In some special cases - where, for example, the proposals put forward in a plan for one neighbourhood have significant implications for other people nearby - people from other neighbourhoods may be allowed to vote too.
If more than 50 per cent of people voting in the referendum support the plan or order, then the local planning authority must bring it into force.
Stage 5: Legal force
Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, it carries real 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.
A neighbourhood order will grant planning permission for development that complies with the order. Where people have made clear that they want development of a particular type, it will be easier for that development to go ahead.