cpre-oxfordshire-logo-online-257x79

Skip to navigation

Neighbourhood plans

Monday, 01 October 2012 10:53

Neighbourhood planning in Woodcote Neighbourhood planning in Woodcote Photo: Geoff Botting

The Localism Act, which came into force in November 2011, introduced provisions for neighbourhood planning. But what’s it all about and what does it mean for communities in Oxfordshire?

There are three main elements to neighbourhood planning:

1 Neighbourhood Development Plans – these are very localised versions of Local Plans and will include polices on the development and use of land.
2 Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) – these can grant planning permission for a certain type of development, in a certain area. The permission can be unconditional or subject to approval by the relevant planning authority, which in this case could be the parish council.
3 Community Right to Build Orders – these are a special type of NDO that can be prepared by a community organisation. They will grant planning permission for a specified development in relation to a specified site.

What is a 'neighbourhood' and who is responsible for neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared by the relevant town or parish council or, where neither of these exists, a ‘neighbourhood forum’ designated by the local planning authority. Once a plan is drawn up, it must be submitted to the local planning authority to ensure it complies with regulations. It is then put forward for Independent Examination by the Planning Inspectorate. Finally, the plans must be approved by more than 50% of those voting in a local referendum. Presuming it gets through all these stages, the local authority must adopt it as part of the local development plan.

Who pays?

The local planning authority must pay for the Independent Examination, the referendum and any administration associated with processing the plan.
However, the costs of developing the plan itself have to be met by the parish or town council, or neighbourhood forum.

The opportunities & challenges

Theoretically, this puts decision-making back into the hands of local people. Neighbourhood plans could bring communities together around a positive vision for their area and a clear plan for sustainable development. If it works as the Government hopes, these plans will feed strongly into Local Plans.
But things are never as simple as they seem!

Firstly, neighbourhood plans will have to conform with the strategic elements of the Local Plan, including housing and economic development requirements. In turn, Local Plans have to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework So, it seems it will be OK for local communities to say ‘yes’ to development, but ‘no’ is still not a valid response.

Secondly, neighbourhood planning could cost local communities a great deal, both in terms of time and money, with figures of anywhere between £17,000 and £70,000 being thrown around. Advice and support from external consultants can quickly push costs up.

So, while preparing these plans might prove a useful exercise, expectations must be realistic about the work involved and the degree to which communities can set their own agenda.

Local planning authorities will have an important role to play in this as they will need to support communities through the process. However, with scarce resources, it is not clear how planning departments will cope with any significant influx of plans, especially when their priority may be on getting Core Strategies in place within the 12 month deadline set by the National Planning Policy Framework.

What’s happening in Oxfordshire in 2012

To encourage take up of neighbourhood plans, the Government has identified a number of Front Runners to receive grant funding of £20,000. In Oxfordshire these are: Banbury, Chipping Norton, Faringdon, Thame, Woodcote and Wroxton.

Geoff Botting, Vice- Chair, Woodcote Parish Council says: "My advice for communities without planners on tap is to organise the project, to build expertise and evidence, and include the community from Day One."

Hilary Sherman, Deputy Town Clerk of Faringdon Town Council says: "Early on we took the view that the plan should be driven by the townspeople as a whole rather than merely ‘consulting’ with them. This has been remarkably successful."

Astrid Harvey, who is working to support the Chipping Norton Neighbourhood Plan, says: “Building momentum and sustaining enthusiasm in the town for the Neighbourhood Plan is challenging. We are very grateful to the 400 households who completed a residents' questionnaire, and to those who attended our workshops and focus groups. What they told us is helping to build a clear picture of the sort of town we need to plan for."

join us

Donate with JustGiving

heartlogo800x750.jpg

Back to top

background