1. What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
New planning regulations, together with the Localism Act, allow local communities to develop a plan for the future to influence how their community is developed. The plan documents a shared long term vision, together with policies on what development is required and where this can be implemented. Once fully agreed it becomes a statutory plan that Cheshire East Council is required to consider when determining all planning applications within our area.
2. Can my community have a Neighbourhood Plan?
Neighbourhood planning is available everywhere. The Localism Act gives parish (and town) councils a leading role in neighbourhood planning in an area which includes all or part of a parish, or indeed across several parishes.
3. Why does Wistaston Parish Council believe we need a Neighbourhood Plan?
The Parish Council believes that without strong planning policies any future developments run the risk of being unsuitable, unsustainable and potentially damaging to the parish over the long term. The Parish Council strongly believes that a Neighbourhood Plan will address concerns surrounding future development.
4. Who produces the Neighbourhood Plan?
The Parish Council is the responsible body for developing the plan.
Councillors will lead a Steering Group, but we will also involve community groups, businesses and residents. There will be public consultations to have your say as well as to see the progress of the plan. Once the plan is prepared, it will be subject to independent examination to ensure it complies with all the planning regulations, followed by a referendum within the parish to seek your support.
5. How long does it take to produce?
There are several stages to consider in the preparation of the plan.
- Neighbourhood Plan Designation
- This formally defines the area the Neighbourhood Plan will cover, and seeks Cheshire East Council approval.
- Preparing the Plan
- Understanding the Policies
- Establishing Evidence Base
- Creating local Policies
- Independent Examination
- Community Referendum
- Adoption by Cheshire East Council under the Local Plan
- Monitoring & Periodic Reviews
Estimated time for stages 1 to 5, is 9 months.
6. What are the costs of a neighbourhood plan likely to be?
There is no fixed format or template for a neighbourhood plan and it is not intended that these plans should be mini-local plans or core strategies. We are likely to concentrate on a few policies only, which have a major impact on our area. This means, for example, housing development, type and style of housing required, and sustainability of any new developments.
The cost of preparing a neighbourhood plan is likely to vary depending on the complexity, size, and scope of the plan prepared by the local authority. As Cheshire East Local Plan has yet to be finalised, then considerable time will be spent re-reviewing drafts and revising our own policies, and aligning them to the new Local Plan.
We have to employ planning specialists to support and guide us on the technical content of our neighbourhood plan to ensure it is compliant with government policies as well as Cheshire East’s Local Plan policies. It is expected that this will be our biggest cost element.
7. Does the Neighbourhood Plan have to conform to Cheshire East’s Local Plan?
The Localism Act includes a “basic condition” that neighbourhood plans have to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan. Neighbourhood plans are a powerful tool for shaping the development and growth of a local area. They are not just re-stating the council’s plan but setting out the community’s views on the development and use of land in their neighbourhood. This includes setting policies on where development should go, how development is designed or, using a neighbourhood development order, to give permission for certain types of development without the need for a subsequent planning application.
In most cases we expect that some of the most important strategic policies with which neighbourhood plans will have to generally conform are the assessing of the requirement for housing and other development across the local authority’s area. Neighbourhoods will come to their own view on policies which should be decided at the neighbourhood level, while contributing to meeting the needs of the wider area.
Unlike many of the parish, village or town plans produced in the past, a neighbourhood plan becomes a formal part of the planning system. It forms part of the Local Development Plan and sits alongside the Local Plan prepared by the local authority. Planning applications will need to be decided against both the Local Plan and any appropriate neighbourhood plans, and any other material considerations.
8. Can we do a neighbourhood plan, if our local council hasn’t finished its local plan yet?
Cheshire East Council expect to conclude and adopt their local plan during 2017.
It is not a necessity that the local council has an approved up to date local plan in place before a community embarks on the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. In many cases, local authorities will have an emerging local plan in preparation.
9. Who carries out the independent examination – is it only a planning inspector?
A planning consultant or other planning professional, an employee of another local authority or a planning inspector, will be appointed by the Cheshire East Council, but with the appointment agreed by the parish council or neighbourhood forum. The purpose of the examination is to ensure that the plan has been prepared in accordance with the law and is consistent with national policy and in general conforms with the strategic policies of the Local Plan.
10. Does the Parish Council have to run a referendum?
Parish councils will not have to run the neighbourhood planning referendum – this will be the responsibility of Cheshire East Council which runs elections in the neighbourhood area. It is important that the whole community has the opportunity to be involved in a neighbourhood plan which may have significant effects on the shape of that community in the future. Alongside the importance of wide community engagement in developing the plan, a referendum is an important way of doing this and providing democratic legitimacy for the content of the plan.
11. What role does a local authority have once the Neighbourhood Plan has been approved at a referendum?
A neighbourhood plan which has had a successful examination and has been approved by a majority of those voting on it in a local referendum must be approved by the Cheshire East Council The local authority must consider the policies of the Neighbourhood Plan whenever determining planning applications. In some cases, the Parish Council may have authority to determine planning applications.
12. Can neighbourhood plans be used to block development rather than promote it?
No. Neighbourhood planning is about shaping the development of a local area in a positive manner. It is not a tool to stop new development proposals from happening and should reflect local and national policies. Neighbourhood plans and orders should not promote less development than set out in the local plan or undermine its strategic policies.
13. Does the neighbourhood plan have to conform to the local plan?
One of the basic conditions that neighbourhood plans or orders must satisfy is that they are in general conformity with the strategic policies of the adopted development plan for the local area, i.e. the high-level strategic elements in the local plan that are essential to delivering the overall planning and development strategy for the local area.
Some LPAs in the process of preparing their Local Plan have clearly identified their strategic policies in their draft Local Plans. This can provide clarity to the neighbourhood plan making process and examination.