Neighbourhood plans were introduced by the government as part of the Localism Act, and are designed to give local communities a way to influence the type and location of new development, particularly when such new development is required by local planning policies to occur.
A link to download the government’s guide to neighbourhood planning is given at the end of the page. The main points it makes can be summarised as follows:
- where development is required to occur, a neighbourhood plan provides local residents with an opportunity to influence where such development is done and what is developed
- a neighbourhood plan cannot be used to block development which has been decided upon in local planning policy; it can however influence the type, design, location and mix of development
- it is optional whether a community decides to create a neighbourhood plan or not: creating such a plan is a demanding process in time and cost since it must stand up to scrutiny by the Planning Inspectorate
- a neighbourhood plan which is agreed by a majority in a local referendum then carries legal weight and must be taken into account in future planning decisions, balancing existing national and local policies
A neighbourhood plan could be created in order to propose more development than local policy may appear to permit, in order to maximise the appropriate development allowed in a given context: however it must still be passed by local referendum and by the Planning Inspectorate.
In Flamstead’s case, there is significant protection against development by virtue of its “selected small village in the green belt” status, although policy permits limited infilling within the planning envelope as described previously. Having a neighbourhood plan would not necessarily add to that protection. If a future policy change were to require development in Flamstead then a neighbourhood plan might be considered necessary in order to give control over the location and type of any such development.
Best advice is that to create a neighbourhood plan could take 2-3 years, cost £30-£50,000, and if not led by the Parish Council would involve a group of at least 21 people (government requirement) during the process. Grants of up to £7,000 per neighbourhood are potentially available. Harpenden and Redbourn have embarked on neighbourhood plan projects because local policy has designated them as areas for additional housing development.
Neighbourhood plans are not primarily intended to be used as a means to raise money for local causes: they are primarily a tool for local influence over required or proposed development.
The government guide can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking this link >> Neighbourhood planning
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