Is a Neighbourhood Plan right for your community?

Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is a significant opportunity but also a major commitment for your community.

Neighbourhood planning is a community-led process that involves a lot of time, energy and resources, and whilst we will provide support and advise groups throughout the process, the majority of the work will need to be done by the local community.

There are a number of factors to consider in deciding whether a Neighbourhood Plan is right for your community.

What a Neighbourhood Plan can and cannot do

A Neighbourhood Plan can be used to set out how new development should look and where it should be to maximise the benefit to your community. It can’t be used to stop development that has already been permitted or identified through the Local Plan.

A Neighbourhood Plan can propose more development of a certain type than is currently planned for, (for example more specialist accommodation or more restaurants) if there is evidence to support your policies. However a Neighbourhood Plan can’t  propose less development than is identified in the Local Plan.

A Neighbourhood Plan can designate areas of greenspace to safeguard them from development where a number of criteria are met, such as a clear community benefit and public accessibility. It cannot designate land that is not currently accessible or has no existing community benefit, or prevent landowners from making decisions about the use of their land.

If you have concerns about the scale or amount of development already proposed for your area, or your issues are more complex, such as a need for new roads in your area, it may be more appropriate for you to seek to influence the Local Plan through making representations to the council

How long does it take to produce?

The average length of time taken to produce a Neighbourhood Plan is 2 years. Plans produced around the country have taken between 18 months and 3 years.

There are a number of factors that can influence this length of time, some which are statutory, for example:

  • 6-week consultation period
  • Examination and referendum

and some which are beyond your control such as:

  • Applying for and waiting to receive funding
  • Technical support and/or expert analysis or evidence.

It is up to you and your community how quickly or slowly you proceed with the in-between stages such as capacity building, evidence gathering and drafting the plan.

Once the plan is adopted (brought into legal force) the designated Forum or Parish Council are advised to monitor the progress of the Neighbourhood Plan to ensure community momentum is not lost and that any aspirations within the plan are brought forward.

How much does it cost?

The cost of producing a plan varies greatly depending on the complexity of the plan and the size of the neighbourhood but the overall cost could be high. Some of the costs involved will be the responsibility of the council such as holding the examination and referendum, but funding for all other costs will need to be met by the Parish Council or Forum.

The type of costs involved in producing a Neighbourhood Plan include:

  • Hosting consultation events
  • Publicity
  • Producing copies of plans
  • Professional consultancy costs (for example commissioning specialist evidence and analysis or for policy writing) if required.

There is technical support and funding of up to £15,000 available from the government to help to meet these costs, see the My Community website (external link).

Who is involved and what skills are required?

Neighbourhood Planning is a community-led process to produce a plan for your local area. Where a Parish or Town Council exists they can register their interest with the council and begin to produce their plan, where there is no Parish or Town Council a Neighbourhood Forum must be designated.

A Neighbourhood Forum must meet certain criteria to be designated including having:

  • A written constitution
  • 21 or more members who live or work in the area
  • A ward councillor in the forum (or being able to prove that effort was made to include one, where this has not been possible)
  • Non-discriminatory open membership
  • A statement to explain why you are suitable to be a Neighbourhood Forum.

The general skills required for producing a Neighbourhood Plan include leadership, time and project management, IT skills, organisational skills and an ability to engage, communicate and negotiate with a diverse range of members of the public, local businesses and other key stakeholders.

Other specialist skills may include architecture, planning, landscape design, ecological or environmental consultancy, conservation, etc. but there are specialist professionals that you can consult if you do not have these skills in your group.

Whilst the Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum will lead and co-ordinate the production of the Neighbourhood Plan, it will be important to engage effectively with the wider community and other interested parties.

Part of the process of Neighbourhood Planning is identifying and understanding local issues and the different views that people have on how the area should develop. If there are views that differ, effort should be made to find a solution to bring a plan forward collectively, people who disagree should not be excluded from the process.

Whilst it is a legal requirement that consultation is carried out, ensuring that people of all views have the opportunity to participate will also assist with ensuring that the plan is realistic in its approach to local issues and will greatly reduce the risk of a ‘no’ vote in the referendum.

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