What is neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning was introduced in the Localism Act 2011. It is an important and powerful tool that gives communities statutory powers to shape how their communities develop.

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the Local Planning Authority
  • A powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place

The neighbourhood planning process

Here are the steps involved in creating a neighbourhood plan.  To see a more generic version of this process, click here.

As an area that is not within a parish or town council, the first step to creating a neighbourhood plan in the Norwich Over The Wensum area is to create a Neighbourhood Forum and determine a Neighbourhood Area.  

A Neighbourhood Forum is a group with at least 21 members specially set up to create a neighbourhood plan. We set up our Neighbourhood Forum in November 2021.  We had to apply to the local authority to become designated, and they made a decision to approve our application in April 2022.

We also had to confirm our neighbourhood area. In this particular case, the boundaries of our neighbourhood area was already determined following a previous, unsuccessful, attempt to form a neighbourhood forum.

Therefore Step 1 is complete!

The whole point of a neighbourhood plan is that it is community led.

Our neighbourhood planning group will need to talk to lots of people locally – residents, businesses, community groups, schools – to find out what’s important to them about where they live, what they’d like to improve and what their vision is for the local area.

We will also need to gather evidence to back up the ideas that the community want to see.

Using feedback and evidence, our next job is to write the planning policies that will make our community’s vision a reality.

Once our draft neighbourhood plan is complete, it will be submitted to the local authority.

They’ll check that we’ve followed the correct procedures and that all required documents have been submitted, the local authority will then arrange for an independent examiner to check that the plan meets the basic conditions.

Finally, if our plan passes these tests, the local authority will organise a public referendum (vote), so that everyone who lives in our neighbourhood area can decide whether they support it.

If more than 50% of the voters are in favour of the plan, the local authority must bring it into force.

This means that it will form part of the statutory development plan for the area, so any decisions about whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area in the future must be made by taking our neighbourhood plan into consideration.

The Neighbourhood Plan Roadmap

There is official guidance on creating neighbourhood plans at neighbourhoodplanning.org.  A key part of this is the Neighbourhood Plan Roadmap, which is the complete guide to neighbourhood planning, and which we will be following as we develop our neighbourhood plan.