WHAT IS A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN?
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development and growth 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. All Neighbourhood Plans must meet Basic Conditions, which are described below. Neighbourhood plans relate to the use and development of land and associated social, economic and environmental issues. It may deal with a wide range of issues (like housing, employment, heritage and transport) or it may focus on one or two issues that are of particular importance in a local area.
A Neighbourhood Plan will be subject to examination and referendum and then form part of the Local Development Plan. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than some other local planning documents, such as parish plans, community plans and village design statements.
WHY MAKE A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN?
Neighbourhood Plans enable communities to take the lead in producing part of the statutory development plan for the area. Crucially, unlike a parish plan, these neighbourhood plans must be used to determine planning applications in a neighbourhood area.
This is where the flexibility of neighbourhood planning to adapt to time/resource considerations is important. Obviously, a simpler plan with few policies will have less resource implications than a more comprehensive and complex one. Possible sources of help should be identified e.g. the local authority through its duty to support.
WHEN DOES THE INDEPENDENT EXAMINATION TAKE PLACE?
After the plan is prepared and finalised (‘submitted’), it is the responsibility of the local authority to organise and cover the costs of the independent examination and referendum. The independent examiner will be appointed by the local authority with the consent of the Group.
The independent examination will consider the submitted documents and any comments made during the consultation period on the submitted plan proposal. The independent examiner will examine whether the plan meets the ‘Basic Conditions’ and other relevant legal requirements (e.g. consultation).
The independent examiner may recommend that the plan proceed to the referendum stage (i.e. it meets all the legal requirements) or may suggest that modifications are needed to the plan before it can proceed to the referendum. Or they may recommend that it does not proceed to the referendum, if it does not meet the relevant legal requirements. In addition, they may recommend that the referendum area include individuals beyond the boundary of the neighbourhood area.
WHAT IS THE REFERENDUM?
If the plan is found to be satisfactory (i.e. complies with the key legal requirements) with modifications if necessary, then the local authority must arrange for the referendum to take place. It must give at least 28 working days’ notice of the referendum before the date of the referendum. The
Group may campaign before the referendum, subject to rules over expenses.
If more than 50% of those voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’, then the council will bring the plan into legal force.