Neighbourhood Planning is a right for communities introduced through the Localism Act 2011. Communities can shape development in their areas through the production of Neighbourhood Development Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.
Neighbourhood Development Plans will become part of the Local Plan and the policies contained within will be used in the determination of planning applications. Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders allow communities to grant planning permission either in full or in outline for the types of development they want to see in their areas.
Neighbourhood Planning is one of the new community rights, along with Community Right to Build, Community Right to Bid, Community Right to Challenge and Community Right to Reclaim Land. See the My Community Rights website for more information.
People have often found it difficult to have a meaningful say in the planning process and more often than not are reacting to development proposals in isolation. Allowing communities to create the policies against which development is assessed is truly devolving power to communities.
It must be stressed that the policies produced cannot block development that is already part of the Local Plan. What they can do is shape where that development will go and what it will look like.
How does it work?
The Local Parish or Town Council will lead on Neighbourhood Planning in their areas. Where one does not exist then a community group known as a Neighbourhood Forum needs to be established to lead. The Localism Act recognises that not all communities are residential in nature and as such in areas that are predominately commercial then a business led neighbourhood forum can be established.
The Local Planning Authority is involved and will make decisions at key stages of the process, such as approving the neighbourhood area within which the Neighbourhood Development Plan will have effect. It will also organise the independent examination of the plan and the community referendum that is held at the end of the process.
The referendum is an important part of the process allowing those that live in the neighbourhood area to decide whether or not the Neighbourhood Development Plan, Neighbourhood Development Order or Community Right to Build Order comes into effect or not. This is direct democracy and outlines the importance of working with the wider community and securing their support at an early stage in the process.