House of Commons Library

Neighbourhood planning

Published Monday, July 4, 2016

The Localism Act 2011 allows parish councils and groups of people from the community, called neighbourhood forums, to formulate Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders, which can guide and shape development in a particular area. This note provides more information on these powers, on reviews of the effectiveness of these powers and on forthcoming changes to the processes.

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The Localism Act 2011 provided for a new neighbourhood planning regime.  The Act allows parish councils and groups of people from the community, called neighbourhood forums, to formulate Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders, which can guide and shape development in a particular area. These plans and orders must have regard to national policies and conform to local strategic policies. 

The draft plans and orders must pass an independent check. If they pass they must then be put to a local referendum.  If the majority of those who vote are in favour the local planning authority must adopt the plan, subject to its legal compatibility. The Act contains a similar procedure for Community Right to Build Orders, which give permission for small-scale, site-specific developments by a community group. The government has emphasised that neighbourhood planning should not be a way to block necessary development. 

The local planning authority has a statutory role to play in supporting neighbourhood planning. For example, it will organise the independent examination of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, Neighbourhood Development Order or Community Right to Build order. This is to check that the plan or order meets certain minimum conditions. In the majority of cases, it will be the local planning authority which will pay for and run the neighbourhood planning referendum.

Government funding has been made available for local authorities and for parish councils and neighbourhood forums to help with neighbourhood planning. In addition to this, in areas where there is a neighbourhood development plan in place, the neighbourhood will be able receive 25% of the revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy arising from the development that they have chosen to accept.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 contains measures which are designed to simplify and speed up the neighbourhood planning process. It also allows for greater intervention by the Secretary of State in the process of making a neighbourhood plan. The Queen’s Speech on 18 May 2016 announced a Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill 2016-17. The Government has said that it will contain provisions to improve the process for reviewing and updating plans and providing a more transparent duty for the Government to support groups wanting to do neighbourhood planning.

According to Government figures from December 2015, 126 neighbourhood plan referendums have been held – all of which have been successful. Government research from 2015 (using a small sample of neighbourhood plans), suggested that in areas with a neighbourhood plan in place, there was a 10% increase in housing allocations (over that provided by the local plan). Research by planning consultancy firm Turley from 2014 found that more than half of the draft plans published for consultation had ‘protectionist’ agendas and that many were openly anti-development. It also found that neighbourhood planning provided an opportunity for “meaningful” community engagement in the planning process.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced an interactive map showing where neighbourhood planning and other community right uses are taking place across the country.

This note sets out these issues in more detail. It applies to England only. Information about neighbourhood planning functions, where they exist, in the Devolved Administrations is available in the Library Briefing, Comparison of the planning systems in the four UK countries: 2016 update

Commons Briefing papers SN05838

Author: Louise Smith

Topic: Planning

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