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About neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning and economic growth

The Localism Act aims to put local people and local authorities at the heart of the planning process by reducing ‘top-down’ planning and creating new powers.

As well as growth identified in the council’s current development plan (which includes the Core Strategy and Policies Sites and Places Plan (PSP Plan)), changes to the planning system allow local communities to come together to develop local planning policies and influence further growth through developing a neighbourhood plan. Once made (adopted), these will also form part of the South Glos. Development Plan.

The council is now working on a new local plan which, once adopted, will supersede the Core Strategy and PSP Plan. More details about this emerging plan can be found here: South Glos. Local Plan 2018 – 2036.

Neighbourhood planning in your community

Neighbourhood planning has an important role to play as part of the statutory planning framework for both parished and non-parished areas. It is important to be aware that neighbourhood planning cannot be used to prevent development, rather neighbourhood plans need to acknowledge that growth will take place under the National Planning Policy Framework. They should seek to influence how growth is managed, delivered and how development and investment in local infrastructure can provide benefits to local communities, in line with the South Glos. Development Plan.

Who can prepare a neighbourhood plan?

Parish/town councils and neighbourhood forums can prepare neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood development orders for their local areas. To ensure these plans are truly led by the community, local people vote to approve them in a referendum. If the vote is successful they will form part of South Gloucestershire’s Development Plan.

There are three types of neighbourhood plan:

  • A Neighbourhood Development Plan – establishes a vision and general planning policies for the future development and use of land in your local area.
  • A Neighbourhood Development Order – allows communities to grant planning permission for certain types of development that they want in their local area.
  • A Community Right to Build Order – allows communities to grant planning permission to build small-scale housing developments, community facilities or shops, which are identified as providing positive benefits by the community.

There is no requirement on communities to prepare a neighbourhood plan, but they are seen as a good option for communities as they demonstrate a willingness to engage positively in managing and influencing growth. They are given the same weight in considering planning applications as any other adopted plan, once they have had a successful examination and referendum and been ‘made’ by the council.

The formal process of preparing a neighbourhood plan is set out in the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012 (as amended) which can be viewed here:

A neighbourhood plan should be prepared by town and parish councils, or by local community groups, not South Gloucestershire Council.

The 2016 changes mean that where a relevant body (such as, but not exclusively a parish or town council) proposes their neighbourhood area follows their local council boundary, the local authority (South Gloucestershire Council) must designate the neighbourhood area and is no longer required to advertise and consult on it. This was introduced to help speed up the initial stages of plan making.

Advice and Assistance

The 2018 Regulations requires the council to provide advice and assistance to communities wishing to do a neighbourhood plan and to set this out in their Statement of Community Involvement.

South Gloucestershire Council have prepared a Neighbourhood Planning Protocol which was agreed by members in May 2018.

The Neighbourhood Planning Protocol comprises:

  • A statutory process note including a flow diagram of the procedure / stages and consultation timescales, to provide context and detail on the process of producing and adopting a neighbourhood plan.
  • The councils’ advice and assistance to support neighbourhood planning, which in summary is:

a) Structured advice at initial meetings;

b) Consider additional reasonable requests for support, including additional meetings;

c) Advice on methods of community engagement and consultation; and

d) Consider suitability of consultation statements.

And where resources allow:

e) Provide wider proactive awareness raising of neighbourhood planning across South Gloucestershire, including training events for town and parish council’s and communities in unparished areas.

  • An example service level agreement that could be used between the council and the group undertaking neighbourhood planning. A service level agreement is recommended between the council and neighbourhood planning groups to make clear at the outset what the council’s regulatory role is and what the additional advisory and assistance role will involve. It also sets out what the council’s expectations are from the neighbourhood plan relevant body and steering group. The service level agreement also explains what the council will not offer advice or assistance on, such as, writing documents and undertaking survey work, collecting or presenting primary data.
  • An example neighbourhood plan steering group terms of reference that could be used by groups undertaking neighbourhood planning. The terms of reference is recommended for neighbourhood plan steering groups who develop a neighbourhood plan with and on behalf of the relevant body.

Neighbourhood plan progress in South Gloucestershire, the Strategic Planning & Specialist Advice Team will monitor neighbourhood plans being undertaken in the district by keeping a schedule of progress on plans in preparation up to date.

Background information and evidence available from the council

A variety of information including community profiles, flooding information, archaeological data, listed buildings and sites of nature conservation interest, for those preparing a neighbourhood plan, is available from the council’s web site. Information can be accessed from the council’s Evidence Base or the Historic Environment Record online.

The links below offer a range of support and resources and the council advise that communities explore these pages to help consider whether a neighbourhood plan is right for their community. These links set out what support is available.

Alternatively, communities may wish to engage through the Joint Spatial Plan and the new South Gloucestershire Local Plan, which is being prepared by the council and will help guide development in the district until 2036.

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