What is Neighbourhood Planning?
What is Neighbourhood planning? What can it do for us?
These are often the first questions that a community (residents and business) want to know. The technical response is that it emerged from the Localism Act (2011) and put simply it is the opportunity for communities to set planning policies for the future development of their neighbourhood.
In musical terms think Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox singing “Communities are doin’ it for themselves!” Musical interlude aside it is in our opinion an exciting opportunity for businesses, residents and other organisations with an interest in an area, to come together to identify and address the issues facing the neighbourhood.
Issues can range from what to do with empty or derelict property to improving retail, sustainable transport or public realm works. The neighbourhood planning process can also influence new development – what do we want? Where will it be built? What will it look like?
Neighbourhood Planning has been implemented so better decisions about development can be made.
There are 5 key stages on the journey towards developing a neighbourhood plan.
Defining and Designating the Business Neighbourhood Area and the Business Neighbourhood Forum
Preparing the plan
Activities in this phase include; establishing the evidence base, community engagement through consultation, engaging policy discussion and debate, taking note of community proposals and producing the plan. Ensuring early engagement (or front loading) is essential for a successful consultation and will ensure that contributors’ comments are collected and included in the final plan preparation.
Once the neighbourhood plan has been prepared, an independent examiner will check that it meets the right basic standards. If the plan 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.
The local council will organise a referendum on any plan that meets the basic standards. If the area is deemed to be a Business Neighbourhood and the plan goes to referendum it will be dual i.e. both businesses and residents will have the opportunity to vote. A 50% vote in support of the plan will be enough to bring it into force.
Legal Force – the Plan is Made
Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, it carries real legal weight. All decision-makers will be obliged, by law, to take what it says into account when they consider proposals for development in the neighbourhood.