Is a neighbourhood plan right for you?

Preparing a neighbourhood plan is a significant opportunity, but it is also a major commitment in terms of time, energy and resources, and may not be right for every community. This is a community-led process which is likely to take up a lot of time, and whilst Salford City Council will provide advice and assistance, the majority of the work will need to be done by the local community.

There are a number of factors to consider in deciding whether producing a neighbourhood plan is right for you:

  • What a neighbourhood plan can and can not achieve:
    A neighbourhood plan can be used to set out how new development should be designed and where it should be located. However, it can not be used to stop development already permitted or allocated in the local plan, or propose less development than that identified in the local plan. If you have concerns about the overall scale of development being proposed in your area, or your issues are ‘big picture' ones such as the need for additional roads in the area, then it may be more appropriate for you to seek to influence the local plan.
  • The potential for the lack of a five year supply of housing to take precedence over policies in neighbourhood plans:
    Paragraph 49 of the National Planning Policy Framework explains that 'housing applications should be considered in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Relevant policies for the supply of housing should not be considered up-to-date if the local planning authority cannot demonstrate a five-year supply of deliverable housing sites'. Therefore, sites which are protected from development in a neighbourhood plan may still need to be considered for development if there is a shortage of suitable development sites across the city as a whole.
  • Timescales for producing a neighbourhood plan:
    Preparing a neighbourhood plan is a relatively lengthy process. Once it is finalised, a neighbourhood plan will form part of the statutory development plan for the area, and therefore there are specific requirements that must be met in producing a neighbourhood plan, including undertaking consultation and holding a referendum. It is estimated that from start to finish it will take around two years to produce a neighbourhood plan.
  • There is no guarantee of success:
    There is a risk that a substantial amount of time could be spent on producing a neighbourhood plan but it is not possible to bring it into force. This could be either because the city council does not consider that the basic conditions have been met or that the outcome of the referendum is a ‘no' vote.
  • There are alternatives to producing a neighbourhood plan:
    There may be other types of document that are better suited to meeting the needs of your neighbourhood, such as community plans, regeneration strategies and design statements. These would not have statutory status as part of the development plan, but would be given some consideration in determining planning applications and could be produced much more quickly taking up less time of the community.
  • There are costs involved:
    There are costs associated with preparing a neighbourhood plan, and these will vary depending on how complex the plan is and the size of the neighbourhood, however the overall cost of producing a neighbourhood plan could be extensive. Whilst some of the costs are the responsibility of the local authority (eg holding the examination and referendum), funding for other costs will need to be met by the community producing the neighbourhood plan. The types of costs that would be incurred include holding community consultation events, publicity, producing copies of plans and professional consultancy costs (for example to provide specialist advice or evidence) if required. The government's Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning Programme provides support and grants to assist communities in the neighbourhood planning process and communities can currently apply for grants of up to £7,000.
  • The involvement of other interested parties:
    Whilst the neighbourhood forum will lead and co-ordinate the production of the neighbourhood plan, it will be important that effective engagement with the wider community and other interested parties takes place. Part of the neighbourhood planning process is identifying and understanding the different views about how the area should develop and trying to reconcile this, people who disagree with your views can not be excluded from the process. Whilst it is a legal requirement that consultation is carried out, it will also assist in understanding local issues and ensuring that the plan is realistic and deliverable. The plan will also be subject to a local referendum and the possibility of a ‘no' vote is greatly reduced if people have had the opportunity to participate in its production.
  • The skills required:
    General skills for producing a neighbourhood plan include leadership, project management, organisational skills and an ability to engage, communicate and negotiate with a diverse range of members of the public.

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This page was last updated on 6 April 2016

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