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- Technical questions about neighbourhood plans
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Regulations linked to the Coronavirus Act 2020 mean that no elections or referendums can take place until 6 May 2021. This includes neighbourhood planning referendums. These provisions will be kept under review and may be amended or revoked in response to changing circumstances.
MHCLG understand this will be frustrating for communities that have dedicated significant time and effort to the neighbourhood planning process and naturally want their plans to come into force as soon as possible. With this in mind, MHCLG have updated current planning guidance to set out that neighbourhood plans awaiting referendums can be given significant weight in decision-making.
In the updated planning guidance MHCLG have also set out some guidance on public consultation in the context of social distancing.
MHCLG recognise there will be delays in progressing neighbourhood plans due to the social distancing measures currently in place across the UK. The updated planning guidance also provides further advice on the implications for conducting publicity and consultation, and examinations.
Grants and technical support will continue to be available to support communities during the next financial year, and Locality’s advice service continues to operate as normal.
As set out in the recently published Chief Planner’s newsletter, MHCLG will allow local authorities to make claims for new burdens grants at an earlier point in the neighbourhood planning process.
You can find out further information in the MHCLG COVID-19 FAQ notes.
Neighbourhood Planning during the COVID-19 Crisis
To help you understand what you can do to help progress your neighbourhood plan during this time we’ve put together some tips for you.
Some plan making activities will be restricted, however, other plan making activities can continue with a different approach.
I’d like a hard copy of the Neighbourhood Planning Roadmap
Please email email@example.com with the number of copies you would like, along with your name and postal address.
How can I find out more about Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)?
Strategic environmental assessment
You can find out more about strategic environmental assessment (SEA) by reading the Understand if your plan requires a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) guide.
Habitats Regulations Assessment screening requirements
A neighbourhood plan may need to undergo environmental ‘screening’ for the Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) to determine whether it is likely to have a significant effect on a European designated site under the Habitats Directive. At the ‘screening’ stage it has been common to list the measures that were intended to avoid or mitigate any harmful effects of a neighbourhood plan.
In April 2018, in the case People Over Wind & Sweetman v Coillte Teoranta (“People over Wind”), the Court of Justice of the European Union clarified that it is not appropriate to take account of mitigation measures when screening plans and projects for their effects on European protected habitats under the Habitats Directive. In practice this means if a likely significant effect is identified at the screening stage of a habitats assessment, an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ must be undertaken.
A new basic condition came into force on 28 December 2018 to allow neighbourhood plans and orders in areas where there could be a likely significant effect on a protected habitat to undertake a full ‘appropriate assessment’ to demonstrate how impacts will be mitigated, in the same way as would happen for a Local Plan.
If your plan requires an appropriate assessment as part of its HRA, you should also consider whether it requires an SEA.
How can I find out more about local green space designations and/or the green belt
Local green space
You can find out more about Green Spaces and Green Space Designation by reading the Making local green space designations in your neighbourhood plan toolkit.
The new NPPF now allows neighbourhood plans to amend the boundaries of green belts, where strategic policies (either in the local plan or a spatial development strategy) have established the need for changes to the green belt.
How do I work out my area’s housing need and how do I assess and allocate sites?
You can find out more about housing and housing needs assessment by reading the How to undertake a Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) guide.
Read the How to undertake a Housing Needs Assessment (HNA) guide.
Sites assessment and allocation
You can find out more about site assessment and allocation by reading the How to assess and allocate sites for development guide.
Read the How to assess and allocate sites for development guide
What are design codes?
A design code provides detailed design guidance for a site or area; they prescribe design requirements (or ‘rules’) that new development within the specified site or area should follow.
They can include requirements for built form (e.g. setting out a range of building types and how buildings should interact with the street), landscape, open space, and movement (e.g. access and ease of pedestrian movement), etc.
Design codes can vary in their level of requirements and the scale at which they operate, however they will be useful where there is a desire to:
- coordinate design outcomes across large or complex sites to deliver a vision that the local community wants to see;
- ensure consistency across large sites which may be in multiple ownership and/or where development is to be phased and more than one developer and design team is likely to be involved.
Design codes can provide certainty to the community as they give more confidence that new development coming forward will reflect community wants and needs.
Design codes also give more certainty to developers, as they will be able to design a scheme that is reflective of community aspirations, potentially speeding up the planning application process.
You can find more information on design codes within the Planning Practice Guidance at gov.uk
Questions about the neighbourhood planning process
How do I create a neighbourhood plan and where do I find the regulations?
You can find out more about how to create a neighbourhood plan by reading How to create a Neighbourhood Plan: Your step by step roadmap guide.
You can find out more about neighbourhood planning regulations on legislation.gov.uk
Go to the neighbourhood planning legislation
I want to know more about how to establish a neighbourhood forum
You can find out how to establish a neighbourhood forum in the How to establish a neighbourhood planning forum guide.
Read the How to establish a neighbourhood planning forum guide.
I want to know more about neighbourhood area designation.
You can find out more about neighbourhood area designation in Part C – ‘Neighbourhood designation area’ of the How to create a Neighbourhood Plan: Your step by step roadmap guide.
Read the How to create a Neighbourhood Plan: Your step by step roadmap guide.
I want to know more about community infrastructure levy (CIL).
What is the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)?
Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a charge which landowners must pay on new development. It applies to developments above a certain size (over 100 square metres) and is collected in order to pay for new infrastructure. The amount charged differs depending on what the CIL rate is. For example, places with higher land values tend to have higher CIL rates. The centre of town for instance.
What’s the difference between CIL and Section 106?
Section 106 is another type of planning obligation similar to CIL. But whilst Section 106 is only collected on certain types of developments, CIL is collected on all developments above 100 square metres within a CIL collecting area. Whilst the amount paid in a Section 106 agreement is negotiated, CIL rates are set and cannot be negotiated. Not all local authorities must set CIL rates, but all are allowed to.
What is the neighbourhood portion of CIL?
15% of CIL collected is passed directly to town and parish councils for them to decide how it will be spent. The is called the neighbourhood portion. In areas that are unparished, instead of being passed to the town or parish council, the local authority must consult residents and businesses about how they would like the neighbourhood portion to be spent. But the local authority retains and spends the money.
Why is the neighbourhood portion of CIL important for neighbourhood planners?
In areas with made neighbourhood plans, the neighbourhood portion of CIL increases to 25%. This is passed to the town or parish council, or in unparished areas, again residents and businesses are consulted.
We are a neighbourhood forum (unparished) and are keen to be involved in discussions about how neighbourhood CIL will be spent.
Different local authorities will have different approaches to consulting the community on how neighbourhood CIL is spent. Ask your local authority about how and when they will consult on CIL. You may have neighbourhood plan policies directly related to new infrastructure so it will be important you discuss these with your local authority.
Can a neighbourhood forum become parished?
Whilst it is possible for a new civil parish to be created, so far none have been formed for the express purpose of managing a neighbourhood CIL budget.
You can find out more about the community infrastructure levy (CIL) and how it relates to you neighbourhood by going to the Understanding Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) toolkit.
Read the Understanding Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) guide
I have a ‘made’ neighbourhood plan, what’s next?
Producing a neighbourhood plan is just the beginning. It is important to make sure your made neighbourhood plan is used and doesn’t end up sitting on a shelf gathering dust.
It is essential to monitor how your plan is doing in the real world. Aspects of monitoring can include:
- Monitoring planning applications: The local authority will have to consider the neighbourhood plan anyway in their decision making, but being proactive and submitting responses to consultations on applications with specific reference to your plan policies can help ensure a strong influence.
- Monitoring LPA decisions on planning applications: The neighbourhood plan is one of a number of considerations for planning officers. Monitoring decisions on applications in relation to your neighbourhood plan can allow you to establish whether policies in your plan are doing what they set out to achieve (for example, are planning officers applying your policy in the way you had originally intended?). If not, you may want to considering revising your made neighbourhood plan.
- Monitoring the local and national planning policy context: National and local policy changes. It is important to keep up to date on these changes as they may have implications on your neighbourhood plan, with policies becoming out of date.
You may wish to set up a monitoring group after the plan has been made.
If you had community projects or aspirations in your plan, you may also want to set up an implementation group that focuses solely on bringing forward these schemes.
I have a ‘made’ plan and I wish to modify/review it.
Minor updates that would not materially affect policies may be made by the local planning authority, with consent from the qualifying body. In these circumstances, there is no need to repeat consultation, examination and the referendum. Similar provisions exist for correcting errors in a plan.
Substantial revision to a neighbourhood plan would need to go through the later stages of the process, from pre-submission consultation onwards.
Any group with a ‘made’ neighbourhood plan is eligible to apply for a new set of grant and technical support in order to modify their neighbourhood plan. Details can be found in the Grant Funding & Technical Support Guidance Notes.
What is affordable housing for sale?
We use the phrase ‘Affordable housing for sale’ to describe a range of housing products which are set out in Annex 2 (b-d) of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2018. In summary, they include:
- ‘Discounted market sales housing’: the NPPF defines this as “housing that is that sold at a discount of at least 20% below local market value. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Provisions should be in place to ensure housing remains at a discount for future eligible households”;
- ‘Other affordable routes to home ownership’: housing for those who cannot afford it through the market. This includes:
- shared ownership: a part rent, part buy model that enables people to purchase a share (between 25-75%) of a new build property and pay rent on the rest;
- rent to buy: homes let at intermediate rent (at or below 80% of the market rate) for a minimum of 5 years. After 5 years, the tenant will have the option to either buy the property fully or partially through shared ownership; and
- other low-cost homes for sale at a price to at least 20% below market value.
The Government is also considering a new affordable housing for sale product, First Homes. It is intended that First Homes will be sold with a minimum discount of 30% off the market price. You can find out more about First Homes here.
Affordable housing for rent and equity loans are not eligible affordable housing products on the affordable housing for sale grant programme.
You can find more information on these affordable housing products in Annex 2 of the NPPF.
My neighbourhood forum designation has expired or is about to expire, what should I do?
If you have been designated as a neighbourhood forum, your designation will expire after 5 years. Your neighbourhood area designation does not expire.
If your forum designation expires and you have not yet made your neighbourhood plan, you will need to re-designate to continue making your plan to take it through the statutory stages (e.g. Regulation 14 consultation, submission to the local planning authority etc.).
Neighbourhood forum designations will typically expire after your plan has been made. In this case you may want to re-designate. Often neighbourhood planning groups monitor the progress of their made neighbourhood plans, including the degree to which the aims and objectives are being realised and the extent to which relevant policies are being considered by the local planning authority when deciding on planning applications.
Technically anyone can keep a check on the plan and monitor planning applications. You do not need to be a designated neighbourhood forum to do this.
However, you may still wish to re-designate. If as part of your monitoring you realise certain policies are not having the desired effect, you may decide to update your made neighbourhood plan and have it remade. In this case, only a designated forum would be able to do this.
The process for re-designation is the same as the initial designation and you will have to submit a forum designation application to your local planning authority. As five years is a long time and the make up of your area may have changed considerably (residents and employers leaving, and new ones coming in etc.), it is important that you invite new members to join the forum, so that the forum membership stays truly reflective of the neighbourhood area.
What support am I eligible for and how can I apply?
What kind of support can you apply for?
There are two main types of support that groups can apply for provided you meet the eligibility criteria:
You can apply for both grant funding, and technical support.
Find out if you’re eligible for support
You can find out more about grant funding and technical support eligibility by reading the Neighbourhood Planning Guidance Notes. Or if you are applying for neighbourhood development order support to bring forward affordable housing for sale, you can find out more by reading the grant and technical support guidance notes for neighbourhood development orders.
How to apply for support
To apply for grant funding and/or technical support, you must first complete an expression of interest (EoI).
Once you have completed and submitted your EoI, a link to a personalised application form will be sent to your email address within one working day.
How do I apply for the additional grant?
It is exactly the same process as applying for basic grant or technical support. You complete an EOI form which will generate an application form which you’ll receive by email. We use the same form for all elements of the programme. However when you apply for further grant any amount over the £10,000 basic grant will automatically be considered as the additional grant.
You can only apply for a maximum of £10,000 per application, so presumably, this will be your second or third application. We will see what you have previously been awarded and whether there was any underspend.
Please note this is only for groups that meet the additional criteria. See below:
- Allocating sites for housing
- Including design codes in your plan
- A designated business neighbourhood plan
- A cluster of three or more parishes writing a single plan
- A Neighbourhood Area with a population of over 25,000
- A designated neighbourhood forum
- A group based in an area which has a high level of deprivation (where 30% or more of the neighbourhood area or population is in the 20% most deprived areas in England according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation).
Do I meet the deprivation criteria for Additional Grant and technical support?
To meet this criteria, you must be in an area where 30% or more of the neighbourhood area or population is in the 20% most deprived areas in England according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
To help you establish whether you meet this criteria, please read page 15 of the Guidance notes. This sets out where to find the index and how to determine your deprivation score.
How do I apply for the affordable housing for sale grant?
It is exactly the same process as applying for basic grant, additional grant or technical support. You complete an EOI form which will generate an application form which you’ll receive by email.
Please note this is only for groups that meet the affordable housing for sale grant criteria. Are you either:
- Seeking to allocate sites for affordable housing for sale or
- at an early stage and not yet sure if you are allocating sites for housing but are considering bringing forward affordable housing for sale and are investigating the need by undertaking housing needs assessments and other relevant studies.
Do I meet the ‘Seeking to bringing forward affordable housing for sale in your plan’ technical support criteria?
The is a new criteria introduced from April 2019. You will meet this criteria you are you at least one of the following:
- Seeking to allocate sites for affordable housing for sale
- at an early stage and not yet sure if you are allocating sites for housing , but are considering bringing forward affordable housing for sale and are investigating the need by undertaking housing needs assessments and other relevant studies
You can find out the definition of affordable housing for sale in the ‘What is affordable housing for sale?’ FAQ.
I want to apply for neighbourhood development order facilitation, can I also apply for other technical support?
You can apply for other technical support when the neighbourhood development order facilitation is complete.
I am preparing a neighbourhood development order that isn’t bringing forward affordable housing for sale, can I still apply for support?
Yes. If you are preparing a neighbourhood development order that isn’t bringing forward affordable housing for sale you will still be able to apply for up to £10,000 of basic grant as well as technical support (excluding the neighbourhood development order bespoke facilitation).
You will not be eligible for the up to £50,000 neighbourhood development order housing grant.
How long will it take for my application to be assessed?
If you are applying for grant funding we will assess your grant within 15 working days of receiving all the information we need to assess the application.
If you are also applying for technical support you will be contacted by phone or email to arrange a diagnostic session to assess your support needs. All applications for Technical Support are presented to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to make a decision.
You can find more information by reading the Neighbourhood Planning Guidance Notes, or if using a neighbourhood development order to bring forward affordable housing for sale, by reading the grant and technical support guidance notes for neighbourhood development orders.
I am having problems with my application
My application form link is corrupted
Unfortunately this happens when you do not submit the application within the 15 day timeframe when the link is live. We cannot override this automatic process.
Hopefully you will have saved your answers in the word version of the blank application template, however if you have not, please complete a new EOI form to generate a new application which will be emailed to you automatically overnight.
I can’t access a page of my application
This happens when you have not filled in a required answer. When you scroll back up the application form you will see a black thick line above the question which needs to be completed before you can move on.
You can download a copy of the blank application form template to help you prepare your answers in advance below.
I’ve submitted my expression of interest (EoI), but haven’t received my application form
Once you have completed and submitted your expression of interest (EoI), your application form will be sent to your email address within one working day.
If you don’t receive an email within 24 hours, please try the following:
1. Search your inbox for an email from firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Check your junk and spam folders – these are usually folders stored in or under your inbox folder
3. Try adding email@example.com to your ‘safe’ or ‘whitelist’ senders list in your email settings so the email can pass through your spam filter or junk folder
If none of these options work, please complete another EoI form, ensuring that your email address is correct and trying with an alternative email address (such as a Gmail or Yahoo account).
Some email addresses, such as @gov.uk, tend to automatically filter out unknown addresses.
If you have still not received an email with a link to your application form, please contact the Neighbourhood Planning team.
I cannot submit my application in the 15 day timeframe. What should I do?
Unfortunately, we cannot override this automatic process. Please copy and paste your answers from the live link into the blank application template, complete a new EOI form to generate a new application which will be emailed to you automatically overnight.
Once you have received the email with a unique URL to your new online application form copy and paste the answers from the template into the live link.
By using the template you are preventing any loss of data and you are also keeping a record of what you have submitted which will be a useful reference if the grant assessor has any questions regarding your application or perhaps for the future when you are completing the end of grant report.
You can download a blank application template to help you prepare your answers.
How do I find a planning consultant to help us?
We recommend that you speak to neighbouring groups who are making a plan to see who they are working with, and you can also contact your local planning authority.
You could also use the RTPI consultant directory. By entering your postcode you will find a chartered planner in the nearby area.
Please read out toolkit on how to commission consultants to help you further:
How do I complete my end of grant monitoring?
All successful applicants will be required to provide an end of grant report to Groundwork UK at the end of the grant agreement. The end of grant report will include full details of all grant expenditure against the original approved budget.
Any individual invoice/receipts over £1000 will need to be uploaded as evidence to the report. Any unspent funds will need to be returned to Groundwork UK. In addition, there will be 5 monitoring questions to understand how the grant has helped you to progress your Neighbourhood Plan.
Once your grant has been awarded, all queries about the use of grant, any changes to what you wish to use the grant for, or your timeline for completing the work, should be referred to Groundwork UK. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are a forum/prospective forum and we are unincorporated, how to we find an accountable body to hold the grant for us?
We do not encourage forums to incorporate just to hold the grant as this will normally incur legal and financial costs such as audit fees.
You can find more information by reading the accountable body guidance. If you have any further questions then please contact Groundwork at email@example.com
*a Neighbourhood forum that does not have a separate legal status
I have no grant money left, are there other ways to raise finances?
If you have no grant money remaining you may want to consider other options available to raise finances to help you complete your plan. You can find out more on different options on MyCommunity. This is a general list and not all will be appropriate for neighbourhood planning purposes.
Please note that for other grant programmes you may need to meet specific requirements and that funding may not be available for neighbourhood planning purposes.
Can’t find the answer to your neighbourhood planning question?
If your question hasn’t been answered or if it is more technical in nature, you can submit your question to us and a Locality Neighbourhood Planning expert will respond to your query within two working days.
More complex queries may take longer to answer and, where this is the case, we will let you know.
Have a wider planning enquiry not related to neighbourhood planning?
Planning Aid England offer free, independent, and professional advice on planning issues and they might be able to help you.
Planning Aid England can help you understand, for example; whether you need planning permission for your house extension, the planning application process, including how to respond to applications near you, and how to appeal a decision on a planning application.
You can find a range of helpful resources at the Planning Aid England website.