What is a neighbourhood plan and why have one?
The ability for communities to have a neighbourhood plan was introduced by the Localism Act back in 2011. In basic terms, it is a community-led planning framework to guide future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. It can set out what type of development the community wants, and where that development should go. There are limitations on what it can include, and it must be consistent with Wiltshire Core Strategy and the National Planning Policy Framework. This means it can’t, for example, promote less development than that identified by the development plan for the local area. However, it can say what type of development should be supported, where development should go. It can’t block development, and it must be positive in nature. But it can say where green spaces should be preserved, and where it is important to consider preserving the unique character of an area.
In a lot of ways, it’s like a parish plan, but, unlike a parish plan, a neighbourhood plan has statutory force. Once it’s gone through a lengthy legal and bureaucratic process, and is officially adopted, it forms part of the statutory development plan for the area – this means that the planning authority must consider it when deciding an application for development. This statutory status gives the neighbourhood plan much more weight than other local documents – like the parish plan, or a community plan.
Another positive thing about having a neighbourhood plan is that it allows the local community to retain 25% of the community infrastructure levy in respect of any development, as opposed to 15% without. Put simply, this means more money for community projects, like footpaths or play equipment.
Although it’s the Parish Council who are the qualifying body for the purposes of the legislation, a neighbourhood plan should be community-led, which means you, as residents and local business owners, should determine what goes into it.
Some of you may remember attending a workshop event in the Parish Hall back in 2013, led by Common Places, when we were part of the New-V Neighbourhood Planning Area. Feedback from that, and other events, have formed the basis of the policies contained in the current working version of the plan – and which was the subject of a drop-in event on 22nd June. The steering group is now looking to refine the draft plan further before sending it to Wiltshire Council for their informal views, and embarking on the final stages of the community engagement and informal consultation period.
When we have a working version of the plan, which reflects your concerns, and views on development, and which also meets the legal requirements and limitations, the plan will go back to Wilshire and the formal consultation period, which lasts for six weeks, starts. At the end of this, the draft plan may be modified, or amended, and is then submitted to independent examination (where the examiner will consider whether it meets legal requirements, and will also consider representations from interested parties). If the plan passes the examination, it then goes to referendum – where you get to vote for or against the plan – and which needs a simple majority to be brought into force.