Neighbourhood planning is a way for communities to decide the future shape of the places where they live and work. It was introduced through the Localism Act, the regulations for which came into force in April 2012. Further legislation covering the referendum stage of neighbourhood planning came into force in August 2012 and a further amendment was made in April 2013.
Communities can choose to create either a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order (which also encompasses another type of development order, namely community right to build orders), or both.
A neighbourhood plan can allocate land for development and establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. The level of complexity can be tailored to the wishes of local people. It could, for example, be used to shape the public realm and identify opportunities for regeneration. As a neighbourhood plan must be in general conformity with the strategic framework set by the Local Plan, it cannot be used to prevent new development allocated by the borough council.
A neighbourhood development order will grant planning permission for a specific type of development in a particular area. This could be either a particular development or a particular class of development such as housing or retail. Neighbourhood development orders can be linked to a neighbourhood plan, for example, the plan could identify a need for development and a broad location and the order could then apply a planning permission to a particular site where the development could take place.
Community right to build orders are a special type of neighbourhood development order but, unlike for neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood plans, any local community organisation, not just a parish/town council or forum, will be able to use the approach to bring forward small scale development. If a proposed development is likely to have significant environmental effects and an Environmental Impact Assessment is required, then the community right to build order approach cannot be used.
Where there is a parish/town council, they are responsible for taking the lead in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. In areas without a parish/ town council, a group of at least 21 people must be formed and apply to the borough council to be designated as a ‘neighbourhood forum’.
The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 set out the legal requirements involved in this process and are set out in Appendix 1. This also indicates who is responsible for each step in this legal process – the borough council or the parish/town council/neighbourhood forum.