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Last edited 30 Aug 2018
Neighbourhood plans are defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as plans '...prepared by a Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum for a particular neighbourhood area (made under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004).'
The Planning Portal states that 'Neighbourhood forums and parish councils can use new neighbourhood planning powers to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. These are described legally as neighbourhood development plans.' (Ref. Planning Portal, Neighbourhood planning.)
It is intended to allow local communities:
- To influence where new developments should take place.
- To influence what new developments should look like.
- Under certain circumstances to grant planning permission.
The Department for Communities and Local Government suggests there are 5 stages to neighbourhood planning:
- Defining the neighbourhood.
- Preparing the plan.
- Independent check.
- Community referendum.
- Legal force
 Defining the neighbourhood
Where there is a parish or town council, they can represent the local community. Where there is not, the local community may decide to be represented by an existing community group or to create a new community group.
They can apply to the local planning authority who check the proposed boundary of the neighbourhood and that the community group is representative of the local community. The local planning authority then decide whether the community group qualifies as a 'neighbourhood forum' allowed to prepare a neighbourhood plan or development order.
NB: Neighbourhood plans can also be business led. The British Property Federation (BPF) has created a website http://www.neighbourhoodplanning.biz/ to help businesses engage with the neighbourhood planning process. Examples of business-led neighbourhood planning can be found in Milton Keynes and the Bankside area in London.
 Preparing the plan
The neighbourhood forum can then prepare a neighbourhood plan, setting out planning policies for the use of land and development in the neighbourhood.They can also prepare a neighbourhood development order. This allows them to permit specific developments without the need to seek further planning permission from the local planning authority.
Neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders must be consistent with local and national planning policies, and cannot be used to prevent development if the local plan identifies the neighbourhood as an area for growth. Neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders need to be supported by evidence.
 Independent check
Neighbourhood plans and development orders must be checked by an independent examiner appointed by the local authority, with the agreement of the neighbourhood forum. The independent examiner could be a planning professional, an employee of another local authority or a planning inspector.
To come into force, a neighbourhood plan or development order must be voted for in a referendum run by the local authority. More than 50% of the people voting must support the plan or order. Only people in the neighbourhood that are registered to vote in local elections will be permitted to vote.
It was announced in March 2013 that a consortium of supporting agencies would be led by Locality, and that £9.5 million pounds would be made available until 2015, with community groups able to apply for up to £7,000 to help them develop neighbourhood plans from 1 May 2013. The consortium will also work to develop best practice for community groups.
In August 2012, the government announced that £10 million would be made available to local authorities to support and advise on the development of plans and to help pay for the costs of examining plans and holding referendum.
On 26 February 2015, Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis announced a £22.5m fund to support communities looking to set up neighbourhood plans. (Ref. Gov.uk £22 million funding to boost neighbourhood planning.)
The introduction of neighbourhood planning rights raised questions about how effective it would be in practice, with concerns including:
- Whether it would only empower a particular section of the community, already used to wielding power.
- What resources and advice would be made available to local communities to help them prepare neighbourhood plans and development orders.
- Whether developers would exploit neighbourhood planning.
- What the relationship would be between local and neighbourhood plans, where the local plan was still being developed.
- What the relationship would be between local plans, neighbourhood plans and the presumption in favour of sustainable development.
In 2014, research by Turley found that take up of neighbourhood planning rights was strongest in south east England, but that more than half of neighbourhood plans were being used primarily to resist development rather than providing for it. (Ref. Turley, Neighbourhood Plans – to protect and/or provide? 18 March 2014.)
In July 2014, the government announced that it would give particular scrutiny to planning appeals in, or close to, neighbourhood plan areas, considering recovery of appeals for '...proposals for residential development of over 10 units in areas where a qualifying body has submitted a neighbourhood plan proposal to the local planning authority: or where a neighbourhood plan has been made'. (Ref. Written ministerial statement 10 July 2014.)
On 31 July 2014, Brandon Lewis, newly-appointed Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, announced proposals requiring local planning authorities to decide whether to designate certain neighbourhood areas within 10 weeks and removing the minimum 6-week consultation and publicity period. But parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums would still need to consult and win a local referendum on the final neighbourhood plan or Order.
In November 2014, Brandon Lewis questioned the use of neighbourhood plans to prevent the development of second homes. He said, "...councils should plan for a mix of housing and any planning conditions must be reasonable and enforceable... Trying to control private ownership via the planning system will require intrusive inspectors to monitor the usage of every home and state surveillance of every property."
Localism in London, a report by the London Assembly planning committee published in November 2014 found that out of 1,200 identified neighbourhoods, just 80 had expressed an interest in neighbourhood planning.
In December 2014, DCLG published its response to a technical consultation on neighbourhood planning with the intention of making it easier to produce neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders. (Ref. DCLG 31/12/2014.) This included new measures giving councils just 13 weeks to consider a community's application to create a neighbourhood area. 8 weeks will be allowed where the neighbourhood area follows a parish boundary, and 20 weeks where applications cover an area straddling more than one planning authority. The government is also clarifying the information that must be submitted with the neighbourhood plan.
On 7 September 2017, the the Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2016-17 was introduced into Parliament, with provisions to speed up and strengthen the neighbourhood planning process by simplifying the revision of plans in response to changes in circumstances and to ensure that plans come into force more quickly once approved.
- The detailed procedures for modifying neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders.
- The examination of a neighbourhood plan proposal where a neighbourhood area has been modified and a neighbourhood plan has already been made in relation to that area.
- Requirement for local planning authorities to review their Statements of Community Involvement at regular intervals.
 Find out more
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- Agent of change.
- Community infrastructure levy.
- Community liaison officer.
- Community right to bid.
- Community right to build.
- Community rights.
- Development plan.
- Ecobuild 2016 - What makes housing fit for the future?
- Eco town.
- Edge Debate 74: Building better places - who cares?
- Lifetime neighbourhoods.
- Local development order.
- Localism Act.
- Local plan.
- London plan.
- Mixed use development.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Neighbourhood development orders.
- Neighbourhood Planning Bill 2016-17.
- New Town Development Corporation.
- Planning appeal.
- Planning objection.
- Planning permission.
- Skeffington Report.
- Spatial diagram.
- Statutory approvals.
- Sustainable development.
- Tenant management organisation.
- Town planning.
 External references
- Map of existing neighbourhood plans.
- The regulations in full - Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations.
- Planning Help.
- The National Association of Local Councils (NALC).
- Planning portal guidance.
- Design Council: Tolkits and guidance on neighbourhood planning.
- Local Government Information Unit. A Guide to neighbourhood planning.
- PlanningAid England.
- The Prince's Foundation.
- The Campaign to Protect Rural England.
- Planning: Interactive map showing neighbourhood planning activity by local authority area.
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