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Neighbourhood Plans- Frequently Asked Questions

What are Neighbourhood Plans?

Through the Localism Act the government is giving local communities a direct say in the future development of their neighbourhood, parish or town. A neighbourhood plan is a planning document which guides and shapes development in the local area and is created by local people. Neighbourhood plans are about local development issues, for example where new homes and community buildings should go. They must focus on guiding development rather than stopping it and need to be in general conformity with national policy and our local planning policies.

Are communities required to have a Neighbourhood Plan?

No, communities can decide whether they want a plan or not. Our local plan will still be used to determine planning applications so communities without a plan will not be left vulnerable to unwanted development. We have also listened to rural communities who have said that they want to allocate sites for development but consider a neighbourhood plan to be too much to undertake with the limited resources available. Later in 2012 we will work with the Parish Councils to find sites for the housing allocated to them through the local plan.

Who will prepare them?

In East Devon neighbourhood plans will be prepared by town and parish councils working with their local communities. The neighbourhood plan needs to be supported by the majority of the community before it can be adopted so a referendum will need to be held. To this end it makes sense to involve as many people as possible right from the start of the process.

What area should the plan cover?

Any area can have a neighbourhood plan. They can cross local authority boundaries although they should not overlap with other neighbourhoods who may also wish to produce a plan for their area. Parish Councils will need to apply to us to have an area designated and we will need to advertise the proposal and agree it before the neighbourhood plan can be started. We recommend that, before applying for a Neighbourhood Area to be designated, Parish Councils give careful consideration to the types of issue which are most important to them and whether these issues are likely to impact on neighbouring areas. We will ask whether consultation has been carried out with neighbouring Councils.

How much work will be required and is it similar to a Parish Plan?

The level of work will depend upon the complexity of the issues and the level of detail the plan goes into. This will be decided by the Parish Council and local community but there are some statutory requirements which must be met and the neighbourhood plan must comply with national policy and the strategic policies of the local plan. We have a duty to provide technical and practical support to the planning process but, as it is new and untried, this will be a learning process for us all. It is expected that neighbourhood plans will take up to two years to produce. Many of our Parishes already have Parish Plans and these will continue to inform our decision making. Some Parishes have asked whether these can be adapted to form Neighbourhood Plans and we would suggest that the evidence used to produce them, provided it is up to date, is likely to be very relevant to the Neighbourhood Plan and will give a clear indication of the issues of most concern to local communities.

Can we stop development in our community?

No, a neighbourhood plan can guide development to be more appropriate to local needs and help decide where it should go, but the government has made it clear that it is not to be used to stop development. Many areas have been given housing numbers through the local plan and the Neighbourhood Plan could be used to identify suitable locations for this development, and can increase the numbers if desired, for instance to help finance a community facility, but the numbers cannot be reduced as this would undermine the strategy of the local plan.

Do Parish or Town Councils with a neighbourhood plan determine planning applications within their area?

No, East Devon District Council, as local planning authority, will continue to determine planning applications. Neighbourhood Plans will form a new tier of planning at a very local level. They need to conform to the strategic policies of the local plan for East Devon but will form part of the development plan for the area. The community can choose to replace the local plan development management policies with their own local ones and, provided the Neighbourhood Plan is adopted, decisions will then be made in accordance with these. This accords considerable weight to the neighbourhood plan.

How will the system be fair?

Builders, developers and those with a commercial interest are able to be part of the plan making group as long as they live or work in the area covered by the Plan. It will be the responsibility of individual Town or Parish Councils to ensure that the plan making process is open and transparent. Interests should be declared at the outset. The referendum and examination are intended to ensure that the majority of the community support the plan and that it meets the legal requirements.

Who will pay for the Neighbourhood Planning Process?

The local community, through the Parish Council, will be responsible for the cost of preparing the Neighbourhood Plan. This is likely to come from grants, the precept and local organisations. The District Council will finance the referendum.

What is our role?

The District Council has a duty to provide technical advice and support to communities producing a neighbourhood plan. It also has to: agree the composition and designate neighbourhood forums, agree the boundary of the area to be covered by the neighbourhood plan, organise the independent examination of the neighbourhood plan, arrange and fund the referendum, formally adopt the neighbourhood plan and bring it into force

How do I get involved in Neighbourhood Planning?

The first step is to contact your Town or Parish Council to see whether they are considering or undertaking a Plan.

Page last updated on 31 July 2014