5 Steps Guide to Neighbourhood Planning

Here's a brief summary of the main stages involved in the neighbourhood planning process ...

  1. Set up a Neighbourhood Forum and agree its Area of Coverage
  2. Prepare your Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order
  3. Independent check
  4. Community referendum
  5. Legal adoption of your Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order

See also the formal Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 

Stage 1: Set up a Neighbourhood Forum and agree its Area of Coverage

You will need to establish a community group of at least 21 unrelated people who live in or run businesses in your local neighbourhood area and are sufficiently representative of that area, who will then lead on coordinating the neighbourhood planning for your area of interest.  This may be an existing community organisation or you may wish to form a new group - the group must nevertheless have a formal constitution.  Contact your local ward councillorsto ask them to be involved too.  This community group must be formally approved by the council as a 'neighbourhood forum' for the purposes of doing neighbourhood planning.

You will also need to establish the boundaries of the neighbourhood area that your neighbourhood forum wish to plan for.  This area of coverage will similarly need to be approved by the council, to ensure it makes sense for spatial planning purposes and that it does not overlap with any other neighbourhood planning area.

See our leaflet Designating Neighbourhood Forums and Neighbourhood Areas[pdf - 408kb] for how to apply and how we designate neighbourhood forums and areas.

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Stage 2: Prepare your Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order

You will need to collect together your community's ideas for the neighbourhood area and draw up your proposals for a neighbourhood plan and/or neighbourhood development order or community right to build order.

You will need to ensure that everyone living and working in and around your local community are appropriately consulted on your neighbourhood forum's proposals - including residents, local businesses and landowners, as well as relevant local, regional and national organisations and agencies.  You may need to adjust your proposals in response to your consultation feedback.

Your planning and development proposals must nevertheless be in accordance with:

  • international, European and national designations (eg. heritage and natural environment), and European environmental and human rights laws;
  • national planning policies and laws, including the forthcoming National Planning Policy Framework;
  • the strategic policies and designations of the council's statutory Local Development Plan - you can plan for more but not less development than is required for your area by the Local Plan (neighbourhood planning cannot be used to prevent the building of homes and business required in the borough).

We can help advise and guide you on these matters and assist with aspects such as the consultation process, as well guiding you towards potential sources of funding support.  The Government has also funded four independent community organisations who you may wish to approach to get help and advice:

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Stage 3: Independent check 

Once it's ready, you will need to get your neighbourhood plan or development order independently examined by a planning inspector.  He/she will check that it meets the right basic standards, including according with the above provisos and considering any representations of objection to your proposals. 

The independent examination will usually just involve a consideration of representations in writing, rather than a public inquiry, although the inspector may choose to listen to different viewpoints at an open hearing session if he/she considers it to be desirable.

If the inspector considers that your plan or order doesn't meet the right standards, he/she will recommend changes.  We will then need to consider the inspector's views and decide whether to make those changes.  If significant changes are recommended then your neighbourhood forum may wish to re-consult your local community again before proceeding.

We can help you in arranging for this independent examination, and also give your plan or order a pre-examination check if you wish before it is submitted to the planning inspector.

See also the RICS' Neighbourhood Planning Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS)

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Stage 4: Community referendum

Once independently approved by the examiner, your neighbourhood plan or development order will need to be put to a community referendum.  This will ensure that your local community has the final say on whether your plan or order is to come into effect.

Everyone living in the area of coverage of the neighbourhood plan or order, who are registered to vote in local elections, will be entitled to vote in the referendum.  In some cases, it may also be appropriate for people from neighbouring areas to be allowed to vote on your plan or order, such as where the proposals for your area might significantly impact on them too.

Your neighbourhood plan or development order will simply need to achieve more than 50% of the vote in its favour in the referendum for it to be taken forward for formal adoption by the council.

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Stage 5: Legal adoption of your Neighbourhood Plan or Development Order

If more than 50% of people voting in the referendum support your neighbourhood plan or development order, then the council must bring it into effect and legally adopt it as part of the statutory Local Development Plan for the area.

Once your plan or order has been formally adopted by the council and brought into legal effect, decision-makers will be legally obliged to take what it says into account when considering planning applications and other proposals for development in your neighbourhood area.

Where your local community has made clear through your neighbourhood plan or development order that you want development of a certain type, it will then be easier for that sort of development to go ahead.  A neighbourhood order will in itself grant permission for any development that complies with that order.

See also Neighbourhood Planning introductory guide (DCLG)and the formal Neighbourhood Planning Regulations

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Local development plan and planning policy documents


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