What is a Neighbourhood Plan and should your parish have one?
A neighbourhood plan sets out planning policy for a neighbourhood and, once adopted by the District Council, becomes the main document against which planning applications in the area must be judged. It can, for example:
- identify key priorities for a community that relate to use of land
- define where new homes, commercial premises or other development should be built
- influence what new buildings should look like
- protect locally valued buildings or green space
- add detail to district planning policy as set out in the Core Strategy
It can't be used to stop development or override district or national policy.
In a parished area such as Sedgemoor, a neighbourhood plan must be led by the Town or Parish Council. Following the gathering of evidence, consultation with the local community and drafting of the plan, it needs to be checked for legal conformity by an independent inspector. It is then voted on in a referendum in the area which it covers, and must gain a majority of the votes in order to be adopted as planning policy by the District Council.
Neighbourhood plans give more local control over development and can provide a focus for achieving community aspirations. However they are also likely to be costly in time, energy and money, and depending on local circumstances, there may be easier ways to achieve priorities. Sedgemoor District Council has been working with several communities to help them decide if a neighbourhood plan is the right way forward, and has produced the guide Planning for Local Communities [1Mb]. Two other types of community plan which may be more appropriate for particular parishes are Village Design Statements and Parish Plans - please read the briefing note available to download at the bottom of the page for a general explanation of different types of community plan.
What is happening in Sedgemoor?
Four communities in Sedgemoor have embarked on neighbourhood plans: Ashcott, Cheddar, Axbridge and Cannington. All have taken the first formal step in creating their plans by applying for Designation of Neighbourhood Areas (see below for more information). Planning Officers at Sedgemoor District Council are working particularly closely with Ashcott, who are the most advanced, and will use this experience to improve help and advice given to other communities.
The Council is also working on a series of advice notes to help other communities embarking on neighbourhood plans, and the first of these are available at the bottom of the page.
Getting more help with Neighbourhood Planning
If you are considering whether or not to undertake a neighbourhood plan, please get in touch to discuss this using the contact details at the bottom of the page.
In addition to help from the District Council, the independent organisation Locality has been provided with government funding to provide help and advice with neighbourhood planning. Locality is also administering government grants which neighbourhood planning groups may apply for. More information is available on the Locality website.
The following links should also be helpful as pointers towards further resources available on the Internet.