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 four main steps to creating a Neigbourhood Plan which we’ve outlined below.

Step 1: Getting set up

The first thing to do is find out if neighbourhood planning is already happening in your area. Check your local authority’s website.

In areas with a parish or town council, they have to lead on the neighbourhood plan, so why not get in touch to find out how you can get involved.

You can get involved by joining a steering group or through their community engagement programme.

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.

Once you’ve set up your neighbourhood forum, you have to apply to the local authority to designate it, which means officially recognise it.

It is good practice to apply to designate the neighbourhood forum and the neighbourhood area at the same time, or to designate the neighbourhood area first.

This is so that forum membership reflects those living and working in the designated neighbourhood area.

Step 2: Determining the neighbourhood area

Once your neighbourhood planning group is set up, your next step is to decide on the boundary of the area that you want to cover in your neighbourhood plan – or site designation (You should do this step first if you are applying to designate a neighbourhood forum).

The boundaries of a neighbourhood area can be decided in a number of ways – they could be existing parish boundaries, 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.

Once the area boundary is decided, you need to submit it to the local authority for designation.

Once the area (and forum) is designated, work on the plan can begin.

Step 3: 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 4: 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.

How do you create a Neighbourhood Plan?

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

Read How to create a Neighbourhood Plan: Your step by step roadmap guide

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. community facilities), or for alterations across your area (e.g. encouraging housing through giving permission to change the upper floors of shops to flats).

What support is available to help you create a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order?

There are two types of support available: Grant funding (financial support) and Technical Support (professional assistance).

Please note that eligibility criteria differs from previous programmes so it is essential that you check what you are eligible to apply for.

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