The Localism Act received Royal Assent on November 15 2011, introducing new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development by coming together to prepare neighbourhood plans.
There is a process which must be followed before a neighbourhood plan can be put to a community referendum and legally come into force. It must take account of national planning policy and align with strategic policies in the WDC Local Plan.
The basic stages in developing a neighbourhood plan are:
1. Set up a neighbourhood planning group and have the plan area designated
2. Collect evidence about your area and gather local views about priority issues
3. Identify which issues to produce policies for
4. Write a draft neighbourhood plan for your area
5. Formally consult local residents and other interested parties with the draft
6. Submit a final version of the plan to your local authority for its examination and then a referendum
The Maresfield Parish Plan team has combined stages 2, 3 and 4 which are near completion.
The Maresfield Parish Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Group (SG) is made up of fifteen members; six Councillors (two from each village) and nine Parishioners (three from each village). It is responsible for directing the construction of the Plan and receives the input from the three village Working Groups.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Community Development Foundation we have been able to employ a Planning Consultant.
Monthly progress meeting are held, plus meetings with planning consultants to ensure that the development of the Plan is on-track. The Steering Group will ensure that it is the residents of the Parish who determine the final Plan. There will be no pre-determination on any matter by the Parish Council or any other groups and the Steering Group will ensure that the impacts and benefits from the Plan are considered on a Parish basis.
Three Working Groups (WG's) have been established under the Steering Group, one for each of our villages; Fairwarp, Maresfield and Nutley.
What is a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
Neighbourhood Development Plans are planning documents which are specific to local level planning. They have been introduced as part of the Government's reforms to the planning system to give local people new opportunities to shape the development of the communities in which they live. A Neighbourhood Development Plan can bring together residents, businesses, local groups, landowners and developers to share ideas and build consensus about what needs to be accomplished in their area.
What will a Neighbourhood Development Plan look like?
It is up to each community to decide what is included in a Neighbourhood Development Plan and how much detail they wish to go into. Policies included in Neighbourhood Development Plans will need to be related to the use of land in the area or to spatial matters. It is likely that wider issues will arise during community engagement in the course of the plan making process.
Can a Neighbourhood Development Plan stop development from happening in our area?
No, the Government has made clear that Neighbourhood Development Plans are not tools to stop development. They are intended to be enabling documents so they cannot, for instance, promote a lower rate of development in an area than may have already been agreed. They must also be consistent with national and local planning policies.
What is the cost of preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
This will depend on the size, scope and complexity of the Plan being prepared. The Parish or Town Council will be responsible for all costs associated with preparing the draft Neighbourhood Development Plan: this will include the collection of any new evidence or information to support the Plan, consultation with the local community and making available copies of the draft Plan.
Once the Plan is sent to the District Council, then it becomes responsible for organising and funding subsequent stages including the examination and referendum.
The Department of Communities and Local Government estimate the average costs being between £20K and £86K per plan.
How long will it take to prepare a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
It will be up to individual areas to decide on the pace at which they wish to progress their plans. However it is anticipated that on average the process is likely to take around two years.
How are Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders Prepared?
Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders are prepared through a formal process including a public consultation and an assessment by an independent examiner. They must also be agreed at a local referendum before they can be adopted.
Further guidance on the preparation of Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders will be posted on this website shortly.
What is the difference between a Neighbourhood Plan and a Parish Plan?
Neighbourhood Planning is not entirely new. Some communities are already involved in planning for their area through community led parish plans. Community led parish plans cover all things important to a community and are directly linked to the planning system, Neighbourhood Plans relate to the use and development of land. Community led parish plans remain valid tools for parish councils to use and provide a more informal basis on which to highlight some planning issues.
How does Neighbourhood Planning link with other planning policy?
Neighbourhood Development Plans are the first plans developed at a parish council level with legal force. They will form part of Wealden District Council's statutory planning documents and are additional to, not a replacement for, the emerging Core Strategy. Adopted Neighbourhood Plans will be used in determining planning applications.
Are existing Parish Plans and Village Design Statements still valid?
Yes. Parish Plans, Community Plans or Market Towns Action Plans remain one of the tools communities can use to deliver on their ambitions. Indeed in many cases these provide a firm foundation to undertake neighbourhood planning.
Do Neighbourhood Development Plans need to be based on evidence?
Parish councils will need to use appropriate, proportionate and up-to-date evidence to support the policies in a proposed Neighbourhood Development Plan.
If a Neighbourhood Development Plan allocates sites for development can a land owner object at examination if his site is not allocated?
There will be the opportunity for all affected by proposals to make representations to the independent examination. The general rule is that examinations will be by written representations, examiners will have the ability (indeed, will have the duty) to hear oral representations, where necessary, to ensure adequate examination of issues or to ensure a person has a fair chance to put a case.
However, early consultation and engagement with all members of the community and a clear and transparent procedure to allocation sites will help reduce objectors to the submitted plan and the need for lengthy examination.
Do ward councilors have to be involved in any neighbourhood planning for their area?
They don't have to be involved but members will play a key role and can help progress work significantly - giving it profile with the community and within the wider council and helping to access resources for the work.
Do town/parish councils make the final decision on all new development in their area if they have a Neighbourhood Plan?
The community leads on preparing the plan and setting out the policies for development in their area, but it is Wealden District Council that will determine planning applications in accordance with those policies and be responsible for enforcing them.
The Localism Act contains provisions entitling a parish council, in prescribed circumstances, to determine applications for approvals where those relate to a Neighbourhood Development Order.
How does the Localism Act affect neighbourhood planning?
The Localism Act introduced new rights and powers to allow local communities to shape new development by coming together to plan development in their area.
Who is responsible for neighbourhood planning?
Neighbourhood planning can be taken forward by two types of body, town and parish councils or neighbourhood forums - community groups that are designated to take forward neighbourhood planning in areas without parishes. In these cases the local planning authority must agree a neighbourhood forum.
What conditions do neighbourhood plans have to meet?
To make sure the plans are legally compliant and take account of other local and national policies the plans have to meet a number of conditions before they can be put to a community referendum and legally come into force. Neighbourhood plans must be in line with:
Who checks that plans are compliant before they are voted on?
An independently qualified person then checks that a neighbourhood development plan or order appropriately meets the conditions before it can be voted on in a local referendum.
When are the plans implemented?
Plans or orders will only take effect where there is a majority of support in a referendum. If proposals pass the referendum, WDC as the local planning authority has a legal duty to bring them into force.
Who will decide planning applications?
This will remain with the District Council as the local planning authority.
What is the process for preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
1 Where there is no Parish or Town Council an application to designate a Neighbourhood Forum will also need to be made
2 The draft Plan will have to conform with the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA). At a minimum a screening procedure to determine whether the proposals are likely to have an impact on the environment is likely to be required.
3 WEALDEN DISTRICT COUNCIL will check the Plan for legal compliance before it is submitted for examination by an independent suitably qualified person.
4 The Inspector's report is not binding. They can recommend that the Plan is put forward for referendum, or that it should be modified or that the proposal should be refused.
5 Where the examination is favourable the draft Plan will be subject to a referendum organised by WEALDEN DISTRICT COUNCIL. If more than 50% of those who vote agree with the Plan it will be adopted by WEALDEN DISTRICT COUNCIL.