A Step-by-Step Guide
The following guide outlines the key steps involved in producing a neighbourhood plan.
Define the group and the neighbourhood – area designation
In areas with a parish or town council (such as Waverley), they must take the lead in neighbourhood planning.
The town or parish council will then need to decide on the area which best represents your ‘neighbourhood’ and apply to the council for it to be formally designated as a neighbourhood area for the purposes of planning. The application must include:
A letter or statement explaining why the area is considered appropriate to be designated as a neighbourhood area and how the body making the area application is a ‘relevant body’.
A map, accurately showing the area to which the area application relates. The Borough Council can help you with the map. The neighbourhood area will normally cover the whole parish, but it can cover just part of it, or even more than one parish, but the boundaries for separate neighbourhood areas cannot overlap.
Waverley Borough Council will check the application to ensure that it is valid. It will then publicise the application (for between 4 and 6 weeks, depending on the proposed area) and at the end of this period, it will consider and determine the application. The Council will aim to designate the area applied for but if the area is not considered to be appropriate then a revised area boundary must be designated.
This is a list of all the areas in Waverley that have had their areas designated, but as yet there are no adopted Neighbourhood Plans (November 2016)
Parish and town councils
In areas such as Waverley, the ‘qualifying body’ responsible for producing a neighbourhood plan must be the town or parish council. Parish and town councils may choose to put together a working or steering group comprising community representatives to assist in the process but the parish/town council is the body ultimately responsible for consulting on the plan and submitting it for examination.
Building the evidence base and engaging the community
Before the town or parish council can start to draft the neighbourhood plan, it is advisable to start to engage the local community and to give people an opportunity to participate. It is also important to start building an ‘evidence base’ for the plan. Planning policies and proposals ned to be based on an understanding of the place they relate to. A good starting point is to look at the socio economic profile of the local population, such as Census data in the Office of National Statistics (Neighbourhood Statistics) website. Use evidence that is already in the public domain, along with evidence that you collect, potentially through early consultation, to prepare your plan. The Borough Council can provide guidance on what information is needed and how to collect it. Use the list of resources to guide you towards other’s examples, funding sources, statistical information, the Council’s evidence document. Locality’s website is particularly helpful with videos and other useful links.
Prepare the plan
The evidence base and community engagement will help to identify key issues and a vision for the area, which may then be translated into objectives, policies and proposals. A decision will need to be taken on whether to include site allocations in the neighbourhood plan. In developing policies, proposals or site allocations, different options may be considered and consulted on.
Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment
There is no legal requirement for a neighbourhood plan to have a sustainability appraisal (SA), although the parish or town council must demonstrate how the plan will contribute to achieving sustainable development. Even though it is not legally required, a sustainability appraisal may be a useful tool.
In some circumstances, where a neighbourhood plan is likely to have significant environmental effects, it may require a strategic environmental assessment (SEA). Some neighbourhood plans may also trigger the Habitats Directive. In order to determine whether the neighbourhood plan is likely to have significant environmental effects, the parish or town council must, at an early stage of plan making, formally ask the Borough Council for an ‘SEA screening opinion’. An SEA guidance note has been produced giving more detail on what is required. An application form is available for you to submit to us.
If it is determined that SEA is required, then strategic environmental assessment must be carried out and an environmental report prepared. More information on SA and SEA is given in the Government’s Planning Practice Note on the subject.
The proposed neighbourhood plan must be publicised for a 6 week period before it is submitted to Waverley Borough Council for independent examination. The parish or town council must publicise the proposals to all those who live and work in the neighbourhood area, engage with landowners and developers and consult statutory consultees who may be affected. A copy must also be sent to the Borough Council.
Submission to Waverley Borough Council
Following any amendments made as a result of the pre-submission stage, the proposed neighbourhood plan is submitted to Waverley Borough Council. Before the parish or town council does so, it is sensible to check with Waverley Borough Council whether it has any concerns over whether the plan meets the ‘basic conditions’ that a draft plan must meet if it is to proceed to referendum.
The basic conditions are that neighbourhood plans must
be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan (Local Plan)
contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, and
comply with EU obligations and human rights legislation.
Parish and town councils are able to apply for a pre-examination health check on their neighbourhood plan, to see whether it meets the basic conditions, and to be advised on any potential amendments required to ensure that the plan meets the basic conditions. This does not involve re-writing the policies, but general advice on what changes need to be made. This can be carried out by the Neighbourhood Planning Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS). More information on health checks and an application form is available on the RICS website.
The submitted neighbourhood plan must be accompanied by other submission documents, including a consultation statement, a basic conditions statement and either an environmental report or a statement that the plan is unlikely to have significant environmental effects. The Borough Council will then publicise the neighbourhood plan and supporting information for at least six weeks. The council will then appoint a person to carry out the independent examination (in agreement with the town or parish council).
Independent check – Examination
The examiner will take any comments received to the post-submission consultation into account and will consider whether the neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions. Following the examination the examiner will issue a report to the council. If the plan meets the basic conditions the report will recommend that the plan proceed to the referendum stage. The examiner may also suggest modifications are needed to the plan so that it meets the basic conditions. The examiner can also may recommend that the plan does not proceed to referendum.
If the plan passes the examination stage the council will arrange a referendum so that the community can vote on whether a neighbourhood plan comes into force. People living in the neighbourhood area, who are registered to vote, will be entitled to vote in the referendum. In some cases referendum can go beyond the neighbourhood area if has a significant impact on other people nearby. A simple majority (i.e. more than 50%) is required for the plan to be adopted.
The borough council adopts plan or order
If the plan is supported by a majority at the local referendum it will be adopted (or ‘made’) by the council. The plan will then carry legal weight and must be taken into account when considering planning applications in the neighbourhood area.
If you would like further information or advice on neighbourhood planning, please contact the planning policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Page owner: Sophie Piper. Last updated: 15/08/2017 12:00