Neighbourhood planning process
A downloadable version of the Neighbourhood Planning process diagram:
Neighbourhood Planning process explained
Parish and town councils will lead neighbourhood planning in areas which include all or part of a parished area. Outside parished areas, neighbourhood planning can be undertaken by a designated 'neighbourhood forum'.
The forum should have a written constitution and should comprise a minimum of 21 people.
All of the members should:
- live in the neighbourhood area subject to the plan
- work in the neighbourhood area
- be an elected member of a council body within which the plan area falls
Wiltshire Council advocates a steering group approach when developing a neighbourhood plan. This should be led by the parish or town council(s) for the area being considered and also have wider representation from the community to ensure that there is a balance of interests so that social, environmental and economic interests are represented. This will help give confidence to local communities that the work is being taken forward by those providing a broad representation of the community as a whole.
Clear terms of reference should be agreed at the outset.
The terms of reference could reflect emerging best practice based on examples developed by the front runner projects. Your link officer can provide example terms of reference.
Your steering group might include:
- local residents
- local business owners
- other key stakeholders including schools and religious or cultural groups
At this stage you might want to consider how the steering group is going to consult with the wider community and begin to prepare an action plan and timetable for the following stages.
Your neighbourhood vision will define what you want to achieve for your community today and in the future. It should be realistic, clear and inclusive.
In simple terms, the visioning stage can be summarised by the following three questions:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be?
- How do we get there?
To answer these questions you might want to:
- gather information about your area
- assess your area's strengths and weaknesses
- draft a vision statement for your community
- identify a series of objectives.
The visioning stage is used to identify the key issues of concern at an early stage in the plan-making process.
The results will determine the range, detail and terms of reference to be addressed by any subsequent approach.
The objective is to create a clear vision which defines what you want to achieve for your community today and in the future.
Early endorsement of your objectives, priorities and vision with the local community will help gain support and consensus.
You could consider talking to local residents, stakeholders and community groups.
This stage is not a requirement of the draft regulations and therefore the scope of any consultation should be determined by the steering group.
However, it is important to keep the local community fully informed of what is being proposed so they can make their views known throughout the process.
Producing a neighbourhood plan is a big undertaking, so before committing to produce a plan, it is important to think about what your community wants to achieve.
Neighbourhood plans are set to be a helpful tool for some goals but there are other tools that may be more appropriate less costly or less time consuming.
There are a variety of planning tools and approaches available to local communities.
Some of the approaches available include:
- village design statement
- community plan
- action plan
- Neighbourhood planning
- neighbourhood development plan
- neighbourhood development order
- community right-to-build order
It is important to remember that the core strategy produced by Wiltshire Council contains a series of policies and proposals. These alone, or in conjunction with one, or several, of the non-neighbourhood planning approaches above, will potentially deliver your communities objectives.
Some of the approaches outlined above will require considerable less resource to implement.
The scope of these approaches can also often be widened to include objectives which do not relate to the use of land and development.
If a neighbourhood plan is considered the most appropriate approach to deliver your vision and objectives, the first stage is defining your neighbourhood area. The steering group should consider the most suitable area to plan for. A large scale map of the area and a discussion with the steering group is a good place to start.
You might want to consider:
- the physical boundaries of the area
- social, economic and other characteristics of the area
- and most importantly interactions with neighbouring town and parish councils
As a consequence, the membership of the steering group will possibly develop to reflect the plan area.
This might include working in collaboration with neighbouring parish and town councils.
For example if the proposed neighbourhood area covers more than one parish, then consent must be sought from each of the affected parish and town councils.
This will also have implications for representation on the steering group and the scale of community engagement that the process will require.
The steering group should liaise closely with the 'link officer' when defining an appropriate neighbourhood area.
The lead qualifying body will then need to submit an application to Wiltshire Council.
The link officer will be able to provide the qualifying body with an neighbourhood area designation application form.
The first formal stage in preparing a neighbourhood plan is to designate the neighbourhood area.
A relevant body (usually the town or parish council) must submit an area application to the local planning authority (Wiltshire Council).
The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 specify that the application must include:
- a map of the proposed area
- a statement explaining why this area is considered appropriate to be designated as a neighbourhood area
This step should be informed by results of community engagement.
To apply for a neighbourhood area to be designated please contact the neighbourhood planning team.
If the parish council applies for the whole area of the parish to be designated as a neighbourhood area, in many cases the local planning authority will be able to designate the whole area applied for without wider consultation, as long as the parish council has submitted the necessary information.
There are exceptions and these will still need to be publicised for a 6-week consultation period.
Wiltshire Council will consider the application (and any representations) and once we have made a decision we will inform the parish council and publicise the decision on our website.
You can also see which neighbourhood areas have been designated in Wiltshire on this map.
Although there are no set guidelines for what a neighbourhood plan should contain it is likely that a plan will contain a series of policies, associated explanatory text and maps which detail the policies and proposals.
The policies must be linked to the development and use of land.
Your neighbourhood plan might:
- identify areas of land for housing and/or economic development in accordance with the Wiltshire Core Strategy
- outline specific requirements for development including characteristics such as design and density
- include distinct local policies to help meet the specific issues and challenges identified through the scoping exercise
Policies and proposals contained within a neighbourhood plan should be realistic and achievable. They must also follow some ground rules including:
- generally conforming with local and national planning policies
- being in line with other laws including various EU Directives, namely Environmental Impact Assessment/Strategic Environmental Assessment/Water Framework Directive/Habitats Directive.
Your link officer will be able to advise the steering group on general conformity and meeting legislative requirements.
Before consulting formally on your neighbourhood plan the steering group should consider the benefits of engaging with the local community before undertaking formal consultation required by the regulations. This will help build consensus with the local community.
There are many effective ways to seek community input and endorsement.
The steering group might want to consider various options including:
- running a series of public exhibitions
- meeting with community groups
- undertaking online consultation
- using established networks and newsletters to publicise activities
At this stage the lead qualifying body must publicise the draft plan in a manner which is considered likely to bring the plan to the attention of people who live, work and undertake business in the neighbouring area.
This qualifying body must provide and publicise:
- the neighbourhood development plan
- details of where and when the plan can be inspected
- details of how to make representations on the plan
- the date by which representations must be received, allowing not less than six weeks
If your plan needs strategic environmental assessment, or has other legislative requirements, this should also be made available for consultation at this stage.
You will need to provide details of how to respond to the draft plan and how to make representations on it. This should include a 'representation form' for people to submit their comments on. The steering group could also consider making this available online.
You will also need to consider if your plan will affect any of the 'statutory consultees' listed within the Neighbourhood Plan regulations. You will need to consult those who may be affected and also to submit the plan to Wiltshire Council.
The minimum period of consultation at this stage is six weeks. However, the steering group may decide to extend this period.
When you submit your plan for independent examination you will need to provide the responses made on the draft plan and detail what changes have made in light of the representations made. As a result it is important that the steering group prepare for, and organise, this stage of the process carefully.
At this stage the steering group should review the consultation responses and make any necessary changes to the plan.
It is likely that the independent examiner will want to review the representations made and see how you have addressed these issues and concerns.
The steering group should, therefore, consider how to present this information in an accessible form which can be distributed easily and made publicly available.
Once you are ready to submit the plan you must include the following with your submission to Wiltshire Council.
The qualifying body must submit:
- a map or statement which identifies the area to which the proposed neighbourhood development plan relates
- an environment scoping assessment of SEA to comply with environmental regulations
- a consultation statement which:
- contains details of the persons and bodies who were consulted about the proposed neighbourhood development plan
- explains how they were consulted• summarises the main issues and concerns raised by the persons consulted
- describes how these issues and concerns have been addressed in the proposed neighbourhood plan
- the proposed neighbourhood development plan
- a statement explaining how the proposed neighbourhood development plan meets the requirements of paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Wiltshire Council will validate your submission and verify it with the qualifying body.
As soon as possible after receiving the proposed neighbourhood development plan (including all of the documents referred to in stage 10) Wiltshire Council will publicise on its website the proposal for consultation - for a period being not less than six weeks.
Any representations made during this period will be passed to the independent examiner.
Once the consultation period has ended and the council has collated all of the representations made to the plan an independent examination will be arranged.
The examiner will be appointed by Wiltshire Council in agreement with the parish or town council(s).
The examination process is described as being 'light touch' and it is, therefore, likely to be a written exercise, although the examiner can decide to visit sites or hold a public hearing.
The independent examiner will assess:
- the plan against national policy
- whether the plan is in general conformity with policies in the Wiltshire Local Plan
- whether the plan is compatible with EU obligations and the proposal is consistent with the convention for human rights
- the geographical extent of the referendum
The examiner will also consider any representations made to the plan and how these issues and concerns have been addressed.
The examiner may recommend changes to the plan or order. If significant changes are suggested you may need to re-consult your community to endorse these changes.
If the independent examiner recommends that a referendum is held, the council must hold a referendum.
However, the examiner may also recommend that your plan does not proceed to referendum if the plan is not aligned with:
- the strategic elements of the local development plan
- legal requirements
- national policy
Wiltshire Council will notify the qualifying body whether a community referendum will be held or not in light of the independent report.
The examiner may recommend changes to the plan or order.
If the examiner has recommended that the neighbourhood plan should proceed to referendum, and any necessary changes have been made based upon his/her findings, Wiltshire Council will arrange for a community referendum.
Individuals will be eligible to vote if they are on the electoral roll for the plan area.
If the proposals affect a wider area the referendum will be reflective of the areas concerned.
Where more than 50% vote in favour, Wiltshire Council will have a duty to make the plan or order.
If the referendum has been positive, with more than 50% of those who vote in favour of the plan, Wiltshire Council will make the plan.
Wiltshire Council will publish the plan on its website and provide details of where the plan can be viewed.
The neighbourhood plan will also need to be made available at council offices for members of the public to view.