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What is Neighbourhood Planning?

Neighbourhood planning is a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work. It is optional, not compulsory. Communities can:

  • choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built
  • have their say on what those new buildings should look like
  • grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead.

Neighbourhood planning is permitted through the Localism Act, which was approved in the Commons, the House of Lords and received Royal Assent in 2012.

Why does it matter?

The planning system helps decide what gets built, where and when. It is essential for supporting economic growth, improving people’s quality of life, and protecting the natural environment.

In theory, planning has always supposed to give local communities a say in decisions that affect them. But in practice, communities have often found it hard to have a meaningful say. The Government wants to put power back in the hands of local residents, business, councils and civic leaders.

How does it work?

There are five key stages to neighbourhood planning.

Stage 1: Defining the neighbourhood
First, local people will need to decide how they want to work together. In areas with a parish or town council, the parish or town council will take the lead on neighbourhood planning. They have long experience of working with and representing local communities.

In areas without a parish or town council, local people will need to decide which organisation should lead on coordinating the local debate. In some places, existing community groups may want to put themselves forward. In other places, local people might want to form a new group. In both cases, the group must meet some basic standards. It must, for example, have at least 21 members, and it must be open to new members.

Town and parish councils and community groups then need to apply to the local planning authority (usually the borough or district council).

It’s the local planning authority’s job to keep an overview of all the different requests to do neighbourhood planning in their area.
They will check that the suggested boundaries for different neighbourhoods make sense and fit together. The local planning authority will say “no” if, for example, two proposed neighbourhood areas overlap.

They will also check that community groups who want to take the lead on neighbourhood planning meet the right standards. The planning authority will say “no” if, for example, the organisation is too small or not representative enough of the local community.

If the local planning authority decides that the community group meets the right standards, the group will be able to call itself a ‘neighbourhood forum’. (This is simply the technical term for groups which have been granted the legal power to do neighbourhood planning.)

The town or parish council or neighbourhood forum can then get going and start planning for their neighbourhood.

Stage 2: Preparing the plan
Next, local people will begin collecting their ideas together and drawing up their plans.

  • With a neighbourhood plan, communities will be able to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. They will be able to say, for example, where new homes and offices should be built, and what they should look like. The neighbourhood plan will set a vision for the future. It can be detailed, or general, depending on what local people want
  • With a neighbourhood development order, the community can grant planning permission for new buildings they want to see go ahead. Neighbourhood development orders will allow new homes and offices to be built without the developers having to apply for separate planning permission.

Local people can choose to draw up either a plan, or a development order, or both. It is entirely up to them. Both must follow some ground rules:

  • They must generally be in line with local and national planning policies
  • They must be in line with other laws
  • If the local planning authority says that an area needs to grow, then communities cannot use neighbourhood planning to block the building of new homes and businesses. They can, however, use neighbourhood planning to influence the type, design, location and mix of new development.

Stage 3: Independent check
Once a neighbourhood plan or order has been prepared, an independent examiner will check that it meets the right basic standards.
If the plan or order doesn’t meet the right standards, the examiner will recommend changes. The planning authority will then need to consider the examiner’s views and decide whether to make those changes.

If the examiner recommends significant changes, then the parish, town council or neighbourhood forum may decide to consult the local community again before proceeding.

Stage 4: Community referendum
The local council will organise a referendum on any plan or order that meets the basic standards. This ensures that the community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood plan or order comes into force.

People living in the neighbourhood who are registered to vote in local elections will be entitled to vote in the referendum.

In some special cases – where, for example, the proposals put forward in a plan for one neighbourhood have significant implications for other people nearby – people from other neighbourhoods may be allowed to vote too.

If more than 50 per cent of people voting in the referendum support the plan or order, then the local planning authority must bring it into force.

Stage 5: Legal force
Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, it carries real legal weight. Decision-makers will be obliged, by law, to take what it says into account when they consider proposals for development in the neighbourhood.
A neighbourhood order will grant planning permission for development that complies with the order. Where people have made clear that they want development of a particular type, it will be easier for that development to go ahead.

What happens next?
The formal legal right to do neighbourhood planning will only be available after the Localism Bill is approved by Parliament. We hope that the Bill will be approved later in 2011, and the formal right to do neighbourhood planning will follow later in 2012.
In some places, though, community groups, developers and councils are already thinking about how neighbourhood planning might work in their area. Check your council’s website, read your local newspaper, or talk to a local community group to find out what’s happening in your area.

Funding and support
There will be several sources of advice and support for communities who are interested in doing neighbourhood planning:

  • The local planning authority will be obliged by law to help people draw up their neighbourhood plans
  • Developers, parish and town councils, landowners and local businesses may all be interested in sponsoring and taking a leading role in neighbourhood planning. In fact, in some places, local businesses are already starting a debate with local residents and councils
  • The Government has committed to providing £50m until March 2015 to support local councils in making neighbourhood planning a success
  • The Government have already provided £3m to four community support organisations, who already support communities in planning for their neighbourhood. Their details are below:

The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment
Contact name: Sebastian Knox
Tel: 020 7613 8587

The Building Community Consortium
Contact name: David Chapman
Tel: 0845 458 8336

CPRE in partnership with NALC
Contact name: Nigel Pedlingham
Tel: 020 7981 2832

Planning Aid
Contact name: John Rider-Dobson
Tel: 0203 206 1880
© Crown copyright, October 2011 ISBN: 978 1 4098 3130 3

Who are Hoylake Vision?

A group of local volunteer residents and businesses, and we love Hoylake. We are not part of the council.

What do you do?

We were granted legal authority to make the Hoylake Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011.

We developed for 2015-2020 NDP in consultation with local residents and businesses, a process which started in 2011.

The NDP was approved by public referendum on 1st December 2016 and now forms a statutory part of Wirral Council’s Local Plan.

We are now working on a new iteration of the NDP which will run from 2020-2025. This will again be made in consultation with local people and any new objectives, priorities and policies will be supported by a robust evidence base.

We also monitor planning applications and measure those against the objectives, priorities and policies in the NDP and, where necessary, make representations to the council.

What do you want from me?

We want you to help us make the NDP better understood locally, and also to help us develop the next iteration of the plan whch will run from 2020-2025. The best way for you to do that is to join the forum.

Why should I get involved?

Maybe you don’t want things to change much, because you think Hoylake is already a great place to live. We agree.

Maybe you think that some things could be better, and wish there was a way to make that happen. We agree.

Maybe you think some things are actually getting worse, and wish there was a way to ‘stop the rot’. We agree.

We’re here for all of those reasons. But first and foremost, while wanting to celebrate and protect the best of Hoylake, we recognise that some change is inevitable and necessary in order to keep any town or village ‘alive’. And we believe local residents and businesses should have a much greater influence on future decisions around how that change happens, when it happens, and what it looks like. It really is that simple.

What kind of changes are you talking about?

Firstly, it protects: the plan will give greater protection over the best of our existing assets, whether buildings or green space, from demolition or unsuitable development.

Secondly, it manages change: it is inevitable that over time new houses, shops, offices and other buildings will be built; the plan will influence how and where that happens. So if developers want to pursue an idea, it will need to comply with the plan.

Thirdly; it is creative; together, we can put forward and encourage positive new ideas to meet the needs of new generations of residents and businesses, to ensure a sustainable future for Hoylake.

All together it’s about managing change and influencing decisions. The forum and the NDP gives YOU real opportunities to get involved, instead of leaving decision making entirely in the hands of the council and developers.

What if I don’t like parts of the plan?

We now have three years to review the NDP during which time we can amend existing objectives, priorities and policies, as well as adding new policies and ideas. The new plan will then run from 2020 to 2025.