Neighbourhood planning was introduced in the Localism Act 2011. It is an important and powerful tool that gives communities statutory powers to shape how their communities develop.

What is a neighbourhood plan?

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the local planning authority
  • A powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place

How do you create a neighbourhood plan?

There are three main steps to creating a neighbourhood plan which we’ve outlined below.

Step 1: Getting set up and deciding on the neighbourhood area

The first thing to do is find out if neighbourhood planning is already happening in your area. Check your local authority’s website. If it is already happening in your area, then get in touch with your neighbourhood planning group to get involved.

If not, then you will need to take some initial steps to get things started. The steps involved will depend on whether you are in an area with or without a town or parish council.

Areas with a parish or town council

If you live in an area with a parish or town council, then they will have to lead on the neighbourhood plan, so why not get in touch to find out how you can get involved.

The parish or town council will then need to decide on the neighbourhood area (i.e. the area within which the neighbourhood plan policies will apply). This is often the same as the parish boundary. However, parish or town councils may choose a smaller and more focused area, such as a town or local centre. Also, adjacent parish or town councils may agree to work in partnership to produce a joint neighbourhood plan.

Once the neighbourhood area has been identified by the parish or town council, it will need to be submitted to the local planning authority for designation (which means to officially recognise it).

Areas without a parish or town council

In areas without a parish or town council (i.e. most urban areas), you have to create a neighbourhood forum, which is a group specially set up to create a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood forums need to have at least 21 members.

To get one started talk to your neighbours, local businesses and community groups and get them on-board.

You will also need to decide on the neighbourhood area (i.e. the area within which the neighbourhood plan policies will apply). The boundaries of a neighbourhood area can be decided in a number of ways – they could be physical boundaries like a road or river, or a catchment area for the local shops. Speak to other local people about it to make sure that your decision feels right to them.

You will need to apply to the local authority to have your neighbourhood area and neighbourhood forum designated (which means to officially recognise them).

You may want to apply to have your neighbourhood area designated first (so that forum membership reflects those living and working in the designated neighbourhood area), or you may wish to apply to designate the neighbourhood forum and neighbourhood area at the same time.

You can find more information on this step within Part C of the roadmap guide. You can also find more information on setting up a neighbourhood forum in our neighbourhood forum guide.

Step 2: Community consultation and evidence

The whole point of a neighbourhood plan is that it is community led.

Your neighbourhood planning group will need to talk to lots of people locally – residents, businesses, community groups, schools – to find out what’s important to them about where they live, what they’d like to improve and what their vision is for the local area.

You’ll also need to gather evidence to back up the ideas that the community want to see.

Using feedback and evidence, your next job is to write the planning policies that will make your community’s vision a reality.

Step 3: Submitting your plan

Once your draft neighbourhood plan is complete, it’s submitted to the local authority.

They’ll check that you’ve followed the correct procedures and that all required documents have been submitted, the local authority will then arrange for an independent examiner to check that the plan meets the basic conditions.

Finally, if your plan passes these tests, the local authority will organise a public referendum (vote), so that everyone who lives in your neighbourhood area can decide whether they support it.

If more than 50% of the voters are in favour of the plan, the local authority must bring it into force.

This means that it will form part of the statutory development plan for that area, so any decisions about whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area in the future must be made by taking your neighbourhood plan into consideration.

You can find more detailed support on how to write a neighbourhood plan by reading the Neighbourhood Plan Roadmap.

What is a neighbourhood development order?

A neighbourhood development order grants planning permission for the development you want to see in your area. The permission can be for a new building on a specific site (e.g. housing, community facilities), or for alterations across your area (e.g. encouraging housing through giving permission to change the upper floors of shops to flats).

How do you create a neighbourhood development order?

A neighbourhood development order will go through the same stages as a neighbourhood plan including engagement, examination, and referendum.