The Government Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued some guidance on FAQs. Some other questions which apply within Rother DC ( The Local Planning Authority [LPA]) are below.
What is a Neighbourhood Plan and what benefits of having one?
The 2011 Localism Act introduced new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development by coming together to prepare neighbourhood plans. These are described legally as ‘neighbourhood development plans.‘ The Act also allows communities to:
– permit the development they want to see – in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications. These are called ‘neighbourhood development orders.‘ Neighbourhood development plans or orders do not take effect unless there is a majority of support in a referendum of the neighbourhood.
– bring forward a ‘community right to build order’. This allows certain community organisations to bring forward smaller-scale development on a specific site, without the need for planning permission and gives communities the freedom to develop, for instance, small-scale housing and other facilities that they want. Community right to build orders are subject to a limited number of exclusions, such as proposals needing to fall below certain thresholds so that an Environmental Impact Assessment is not required. Proposals are subject to testing by an independent person and a community referendum.
– the “Right to Bid” to ‘pause’ the sale of buildings or land you care about such as your local pub, shop, library or football ground. It gives your community time to develop a bid to buy it. It is important to nominate land and buildings to be part of a register of ‘assets of community value’. If something on this register is offered for sale, you then have up to six months to prepare a bid.
The purpose of all these planning measures under the Act is to give local people greater ownership of the plans and policies that affect their local area. The intention is to empower local people to take a proactive role in shaping the future of the areas in which they live. Once in place, the plans will comprise the framework for change in that area for the next ten years. Government has said that Neighbourhood Planning will help communities to play a greater role in finding creative and imaginative ways to overcome the pressures that development can create for conservation and local services and amenities. It could also help ensure that development is in line with local needs, provides greater public amenity and more certainty for developers. A neighbourhood plan would be able to identify the specific site or broad location, specify the form, size, type and design of new development.
- Empowering local people: This is the ‘big’ one. The whole purpose of Neighbourhood Planning, and the ‘point’ of the localism agenda, is to give neighbourhoods more of a say about developments in their area. The government wants local people to take a proactive role in shaping the future of the areas in which they live, finding creative and imaginative ways to overcome the pressures that development can create for conservation, local services and amenities.
- Community benefits: Neighbourhood planning could help local communities to deliver real, tangible, benefits for their area, such as: getting better bus routes; creating a community green space or orchard; designing affordable housing for the area running a local enterprise or even a local service, such as the recycling collection. There is an element of ‘striking a balance’ with this, but by having a proactive discussion with potential developers before plans are drawn up, for example, to provide an area of land on site to allow the community to develop a building it requires, such as a doctor’s surgery or community centre. And by working with the local planning authority, a neighbourhood forum could even ring fence some monies from the Community Infrastructure Levy or the New Homes Bonus to help deliver these community projects. Development doesn’t necessarily need to be a negative for a local community – it can be used to deliver improvements to local infrastructure, amenities and services.
- Development by design: By setting out how a local neighbourhood will meet its housing needs and develop adequate local facilities and infrastructure over the next ten years, a neighbourhood plan can provide an important level of certainty for both developers and local residents. Knowing how your community is going to develop is beneficial for everyone; it enables local services to be planned and delivered efficiently to minimise the impact of a growing population.
How can we ensure that Rye Town Council as the “Qualifying Body” is truly representative of the community?
Rye Town Council is what it is – an elected body of civic representatives. Rye Town Council has opted to form a “Steering Group” for its Neighbourhood Plan, with an open membership policy, to include residents, business and local elected members from across the neighbourhood area. The application for area designation included a copy of the Steering Group’s written constitution and a statement of how they will meet the conditions for designation as set out in the Localism Act.
What is a Community Infrastructure Levy?
The Localism Act provides for a Community Infrastructure Levy, which allows local authorities (in our case Rother DC) to set charges which developers must pay when bringing forward significant new development, so that a contribution can be made to enhanced community services and infrastructure. For those communities with Neighbourhood Plans, the contribution would be larger than that for communities without plans. The CIL is explored elsewhere in this website.
What should a Neighbourhood Plan look like?
The Government has said that the neighbourhood should decide what a neighbourhood plan contains, but that they should be flexible enough to address different needs and expectations of land usage and development. They could have high level visions and objectives for the future of an area, they could identify small projects for change or they could take the form of a masterplan: a comprehensive land-use plan embracing spaces, movement, activities and the development of buildings. For those aspects which do not belong in the plan, such as those related to strategic transport, a “project” could be designed for handover to an agency or authority to pursue.
Does the Neighbourhood Plan have to conform to the local plan (The Rother DC Core Strategy)?
One of the basic conditions that Neighbourhood Plans or orders must satisfy is that they are in general conformity with the strategic policies of the adopted development plan for the local area, i.e. the high-level strategic elements in the local plan that are essential to delivering the overall planning and development strategy for the local area.
Some LPAs in the process of preparing their Local Plan have clearly identified their strategic policies in their draft Local Plans. This can provide clarity to the Neighbourhood Plan making process and examination.
What are the tests for general conformity?
The test will be the same as you’ve previously applied to general conformity between local plans and regional strategies and county structure plans.
Can a Neighbourhood Plan be adopted as part of a development plan without an up to date core strategy/local plan ( As at Sep 2013, Rother DC has yet to have its Core Strategy agreed)?
One of the basic conditions is that the Neighbourhood Plan is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan. S.38 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 defines “development plan” as the development plan documents (DPDs) adopted for the area and Schedule 8 extends this to include saved local plans. So where there are no DPDs in an area the examiner must consider whether the draft plan/order is in general conformity with the strategic policies in the saved local plan ( In the Rother DC case, this is the 2006 plan).
How will the production of a Neighbourhood Plan relate to local plans that are being put in place?
Neighbourhood planning doesn’t alter the need to get up-to-date local plans in place as soon as possible. If you don’t have an up-to-date local plan, you will need to work closely with your community groups to develop neighbourhood and local plans in tandem to minimise any possible conflict between the two. For example sharing your evidence bases, undertaking joint engagement work. You will need to make clear to your communities the respective roles and relationships between the two processes. The NPPF requires LPAs to identify the strategic policies in their local plan and avoid duplicating planning processes by producing non-strategic policies where a Neighbourhood Plan is in preparation.
Can a neighbourhood plan promote more development than the local plan (Rother DC Core Strategy) permits?
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) makes explicit reference to the opportunity for Neighbourhood Plans to promote more development than is set out in the local plan.
Can Neighbourhood Plans be used to block development rather than promote it?
No. Neighbourhood planning is about shaping the development of a local area in a positive manner. It is not a tool to stop new development proposals from happening and should reflect local and national policies. Neighbourhood plans and orders should not promote less development than set out in the local plan or undermine its strategic policies
Will the Neighbourhood Plan need an Environmental Assessment?
Neighbourhood plans may require a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). Neighbourhood plans could also lead to the need for a Sustainability Appraisal (incorporating SEA) and/or a HRA to be carried out on any significant amendments made to the relevant Local Plan. Neighbourhood development orders may require a more detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Rother DC is the first point of contact for advice about any environmental assessment and will be able to advise whether such assessments will need to be carried out. This will depend on whether the plan or order is likely to result in significant environmental risks. The Environment Agency, Natural England and English Heritage are statutory consultees in England for SEA and EIA.
Will the Neighbourhood Plan need a Risk Assessment?
Neighbourhood planning raises a number of possible risks for Rye Town Council to consider, including: community expectations and the need to support communities to understand what neighbourhood planning involves; the capacity of communities to maintain momentum during the full plan preparation process; resources to support the neighbourhood planning process and fulfil the council’s duties; the risk that neighbourhood plans could fail at the final referendum stage, resulting in community disillusionment with the process. The RNPSG (Vice Chair is a Risk professional) will consider all these risks as part of its work.