What is it?
Neighbourhood Planning is a transfer of planning powers from local planning authorities to the neighbourhood level. It is an opportunity for local communities to write planning policies that will be used to determine planning applications in the parish. It isn’t a blank sheet of paper however. The policies will add local detail but have to be in general conformity with strategic planning policies. They must be backed by evidence to demonstrate why they are needed.
Why do it?
Having a neighbourhood plan affords additional protection against, often unwanted, speculative development and helps to protect locally important buildings and open spaces. It can add a local aspect to everything that requires planning permission, and helps make sure that planning applications are determined according to locally important criteria rather than district-wide priorities. It also provides an opportunity to look at infrastructure requirements locally. The process undertaken can enhance local democracy and give communities a ‘seat at the table’ when important development projects are being considered.
What does it involve?
There are very few prescribed stages in the production of a neighbourhood plan. It is important that all those with an interest in the parish are consulted fully and regularly about the progress of the neighbourhood plan and given opportunities to contribute. It can take around two years or more to conclude. It starts with the body producing the neighbourhood plan becoming a Qualifying Body and the area covered by the neighbourhood plan being designated for this purpose. Community consultation and evidence gathering can take the form of open events, questionnaires, data collection and analysis and review of strategic material from District and County Councils, as well as other bodies. Once the neighbourhood plan is in draft form it needs to be sent out for a six-week presubmission consultation prior to formal approval and submission to the local planning authority, who will also organise a six-week consultation before passing the neighbourhood plan and all comments received to an independent examiner who will test it for conformity with local, national and EU policies. Once the examiner has reported and made recommendations, the plan will be subject to a referendum of all on the electoral register locally. The final stage after passing referendum is for the local planning authority to formally ‘Make’ the Plan. At this point it will sit alongside the local plan and carry equal weight in the determination of planning applications locally.
Who can do it?
Ordinarily, Parish and Town Councils are the appropriate bodies for taking neighbourhood plans forward. In areas where there is no Parish Council, Neighbourhood Forums can be established where 25 or more people come together and declare a commitment.
How much does it cost?
This will depend on the scope of the neighbourhood plan and the capacity of the group to engage in the process. The average cost of producing a neighbourhood plan is about £14,000 and much if not all of this is covered by grant funding. An organisation called Locality is the government’s agency for supporting neighbourhood plans and their website is a useful source of information and resources. Other funding sources are available to help cover the cost of producing a neighbourhood plan.
Who are YourLocale?
YourLocale is a neighbourhood plan consultancy based in Leicestershire. We pride ourselves on providing a localised and personal service and for this reason we concentrate on a 20-mile radius from our base in Market Harborough in south Leicestershire. The Managing Director is Gary Kirk, a Neighbourhood Plan Examiner who is also a Parish Councillor. There are also a wide range of Associates who specialise in issues such as the environment, housing, transport, data collection and statistical analysis. The Company has been in existence since 2013 and is working with over 40 Parish Councils, Town Councils and Neighbourhood Forums in and around Leicestershire. Into 2018, 9 neighbourhood plans supported by YourLocale had passed examination and many others had been submitted.
What can YourLocale do?
We can offer a package tailored to the individual needs of the neighbourhood. This can range from an advisory service for those groups who are confident about proceeding with limited guidance through to a comprehensive service where we sit alongside the neighbourhood plan group to plan and deliver each stage of the process. Fully worked up packages of support can be made available on request.
Here is a selection of comments made about YourLocale:
Local Planning Authorities:
‘Firstly we would like to thank you for your hard work to date. I speak for both of us when I say how incredibly impressed we were with the draft neighbourhood plan, to such an extent that we are even rethinking some Local Plan Policies as we believe your document has handled them so well’. ‘As an exemplar, the Neighbourhood Plan (adopted) includes a 580-word preamble ‘Neighbourhood Plan Policies for the Natural and Historical Environment’ which begins at the prehistoric era, and works through to the Roman, Saxon, Medieval and Industrial age. This outlines the historic settlement pattern and the shape of the surrounding landscape, from the open field system to the C18-C19 enclosure patterns’.
Comments in Examination reports:
‘The Plan addresses biodiversity in a comprehensive and very impressive way’. ‘The policy is beautifully-constructed. It meets the basic conditions’. ‘The Parish Council and its neighbourhood plan group are to be congratulated on producing a well-written, coherent and evidence-based plan which has grasped the challenge of having to allocate land for additional housing, into what is a picture book English village.’ ‘The neighbourhood plan group have faced a challenging task in producing such a well written, locally distinct neighbourhood plan in less than two years and should be congratulated for their drive and their commitment’.
Neighbourhood Plan groups:
‘Gary Kirk was our primary contact and he demonstrated a very sound knowledge of the relevant professional skills. Yourlocale are now employing a small number of specialist consultants, including planning and the environment, who bring important additional specialist knowledge, which we utilised. Competence and quality - first class’.
For further information about YourLocale and for a general discussion about your needs please contact Gary Kirk on 07808 060654, email firstname.lastname@example.org Our website, www.yourlocale.org.uk has a wealth of information about neighbourhood planning and our approach to supporting communities through the process. We look forward to hearing from you.