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.

What are the benefits of neighbourhood planing?

Neighbourhood planning offers the opportunity for communities to guide development within their area. If adopted, a neighbourhood plan will be part of the statutory development plan for the area, meaning that the borough council and planning inspectors will need to take the plan into consideration when making planning decisions.

The process can bring the local community together to agree on joint aspirations for the area in terms of the use and development of land and allows local people to play a more significant role in the planning of their area.

It will generally be up to the parish/town council and the local community to fund the preparation of the plan (potentially with contributions from the business community). At the time of writing, some funding is available from Locality, subject to the outcomes of an application process, and additional advice and support are also available from Planning Aid. Some additional funding may also be available upon request from the Borough Council, subject to a number of conditions. The level of work required and the relevant costs involved will all depend on the scope and detail of the proposed plan.

The relationship between the Local Plan and a neighbourhood plan or order

The neighbourhood plan or order needs to be in general conformity with the borough council’s strategic planning policies. These currently comprise the ‘saved’ policies from the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Local Plan Review 2006 (Appendix 10 sets out the full list of strategic policies). The borough council is also currently progressing towards the adoption of a new Local Plan which will, on adoption, set out the statutory planning policies for the borough.

Whilst it is possible for a neighbourhood plan to be prepared prior to the adoption of the new Local Plan, this could result in a neighbourhood plan being undermined in due course if it does not conform with the strategic policies of the Local Plan, as wherever there is a conflict between development plan documents, it is the most recently adopted plan which takes precedence. Close collaboration between the borough council and the parish/town council will be critical to ensure that neighbourhood plans or orders fit with the adopted and developing strategic policies.