Neighbourhood Planning FAQ
Q - My village is big enough; can I use a Neighbourhood Development Plan to restrict future development?
A – By definition a Neighbourhood Development Plan cannot restrict development. It can however locate development in preferable locations, restrict development in areas local people wish to see protected and give design parameters for new development. The caveat of this is that this needs to be supported by local people during consultation and evidence to support it.
Q - Is our Parish too small to prepare a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
A- No! And in some respects preparing a plan for a smaller parish may be easier, as there may be fewer issues to be covered and consultation of residents may be easier.
Q – Does the Neighbourhood Development Plan have to cover the entire Parish?
A- There is no rule restricting Neighbourhood Plan to covering the entirety of a single parish. In fact, neighbourhood plans could be made up of two or more Parishes working together. Should a group wish to designate only part of a parish for the purposes of creating a Neighbourhood Plan, they will have to meet the following criteria
- Have logical justification for only allocating part of the parish.
- Can satisfy officers that by only allocating part of the parish, the rest of the parish’s chances of producing a Neighbourhood Plan will not be prejudiced.
- Show a red line plan of the area which is logical and again does not prejudice other areas from producing a Neighbourhood Plan.
Should planning officers, residents and consultees be content that all of these criteria are met, and any further issues can be dealt with then permission to designate only part of a parish will be given. Of the 6 plan areas currently designated within Melton Borough, all are parish wide designations.
Q – What is the relationship between upcoming Neighbourhood Development Plans and the Boroughs Local Plan.
A – Neighbourhood Development Plans when adopted carry the same legal weight as the adopted Local Plan. They will be used side by side when officers come to determine planning applications in these areas. The only caveat of this is that Neighbourhood Development Plans have to align with the policies contained in the Local Plan. Communication between Neighbbourhood Plan groups and Council officers is always beneficial, but in the period before the adoption of the Melton Borough Council Local Plan this communication keep Neighbourhood Plan groups informed of the direction the Local Plan is taking and visa versa, so they do not conflict. Of primary importance regarding this is housing numbers – if a village is allocated a number of houses, the Neighbourhood Development Plan cannot allocate less or by other means restrict development in a way which will stop the full quota of housing be developed (by means of a village envelope or other such device). However, should a village be inclined to allocate more, then it may be entitled extra grant funding as a growth area.
The Localism Act places a legal duty on local planning authorities to support and advise parish councils and neighbourhood forums that want to do neighbourhood planning. The sorts of help that may be provided by the Council includes:
• sharing evidence and information on planning issues
• helping with consultation events
• providing advice on assessments and evidence
• providing advice on national and local plan policies with which the Neighbourhood Development Plan will need to fit
• helping communities communicate with external partners where this is required
Communities may also want to involve the Leicestershire County Council in their discussions, particularly where infrastructure issues such as highways or countryside matters are involved. Melton Borough Council will pay for the consultation advertisement for designation of a neighbourhood plan area and will also pay for the referendum to be run.
Q - What are the costs of a Neighbourhood Development Plan likely to be?
A – It is neigh on impossible to prescribe a fixed cost for the creation of a Neighbourhood Development Plan, and much depends on the size of the parish, the issues the plan is tackling and the skills and expertise of volunteers or residents already in the village.
Some groups employ external consultants to tackle aspects of the plan, while others feel they have the skills within the village to do it entirely on their own. One advantage brought by the on-going Local Plan process is a vast database of information which has recently been collected. Neighbourhood Plan groups are free to use this information to help formulate their own plans and provide evidential justification for the direction they have chosen, the planning policy team will be happy to direct groups to relevant evidence in the local plan evidence base. Furthermore Planning Aid is a volunteer service made up of planning professionals who offer their time for free to Neighbourhood Plan groups, which may negate the need to employ a professional planning consultant.
Q – Is any funding available to help develop the plan?
A – Grant funding is available, and must be applied for at http://mycommunity.org.uk/programme/neighbourhood-planning/. This funding may not go on indefinitely so advice to Neighbourhood Plan groups is to apply as soon as they have a good idea of the scope of the plan and the likely costs involved. Whilst the Borough Council is in a position to offer some forms of support as mentioned above, there is no money available from the Borough Council to be given to Neighbourhood Plan groups. The Borough Council will however pay for the costs of designating a plan area and the referendum. Other sources of funding may be available depending on the remit of the plan, and in cases residents, businesses and even developers have put money towards the development of a plan.