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Neighbourhood Planning and Heritage

Where they are in place neighbourhood development plans form part of the development plan for the area, along with the local planning authority's local development plan. The development plan is the basis for all planning permission decisions (1). The neighbourhood plans takes precedence over the local authority's development plan on matters that are not of strategic importance to the local authority's area.

So neighbourhood plans can be a potent influence over our environment and its future.

Creating Neighbourhood Development Plans

Where there is a willing neighbourhood forum or parish council it may produce a draft neighbourhood development plan. The proposal has to be consulted upon in accordance with procedural regulations (2). It is then submitted to the local planning authority and an independent examiner. If it satisfies certain basic conditions then it must be put to a referendum. If more than half of those voting vote in favour then the document must be adopted as the neighbourhood development plan for that area and part of the overall development plan for all future planning applications. The basic conditions the proposal must satisfy are (3):

  1. Having regard to the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and any advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State, it is appropriate to make the plan;
  2. The plan contributes to the achievement of sustainable development;
  3. The plan is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area of the authority (or any part of that area); and, 
  4. The plan is in general conformity with EU obligations (in respect of matters such as the protection of habitats).

All the conditions must be satisfied before any plan is put to a referendum.

The plan can contain policies on any type of development with the exclusion only of (4):

  1. development that would be a matter reserved for county council planning (minerals related development);
  2. waste related development;
  3. Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects or development described in Annex 1 of the EU Council Directive on environmental impact assessments (5).

Effect of a Neighbourhood Development Plan

Once adopted a neighbourhood plan forms part of the overall development plan and planning permission decisions have to accord with that development plan (and therefore the neighbourhood plan) unless material considerations indicate otherwise (1).

One key material consideration is the NPPF. If a proposal accords with the neighbourhood plan but fails the policies within the NPPF then it is likely to be refused as it will not be sustainable development as defined in the NPPF, which is the objective of all plans and decisions.

Where there is conflict between the application of the policies in the neighbourhood plan and those in the local plan, then those in the neighbourhood plan take precedence unless the local plan policy is 'strategic' in which case the reverse is true (6).

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