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Referendums for neighbourhood planning


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What is a neighbourhood planning referendum

Neighbourhood planning referendums are held when the Planning Inspectorate confirms that a draft Neighbourhood Development Plan, or Neighbourhood Development Order, is valid. For more information on neighbourhood development plans and orders see our planning webpages.

Once the Plan is confirmed as valid, and has been through the necessary approvals at the Council’s Cabinet meeting, the next stage is to hold a Neighbourhood Planning Referendum for the designated area. The referendum asks the question:

“Do you want Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for [name of the neighbourhood area] to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”

Electors are able to respond either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the ballot paper.

Campaigning

Anyone who is intending to campaign at a Neighbourhood Planning Referendum is encouraged to contact Electoral Services at elections@tunbridgewells.gov.uk for more advice and information on the referendum process.

Individuals or bodies (including Councillors), but not public bodies, can campaign for a particular outcome for the referendum as ‘campaign organisers’. The Counting Officer (which is a separate legal entity to the Borough Council) administers the referendum, and the Local Planning Authority may publish factual information for the sole purpose of refuting or correcting any inaccuracy in material published by a person other than the Council. Neither campaign for a particular outcome. Parish and Town Councils also cannot campaign for a particular outcome.

Individual Councillors (Borough/Town/Parish) can campaign, but must not:

  • use their council’s resources to create campaign material
  • display posters or signage that seeks a particular outcome on Council owned property
  • seek to publish views for or against the referendum using Council channels

The Council (or Parish/Town Council) must not:

  • publish any material in relation to the referendum except in accordance with Section 4 of the Neighbourhood Planning (Referendum) Regulations 2012
  • publish any press statement relating to the referendum from Councillors
  • allow the use of any Council resources which seeks to support a particular outcome

Campaigning expenses

Any campaign organiser may spend money on a campaign which seeks to promote or procure a particular outcome. The maximum amount a campaign organiser may spend is:

  • £2,362 plus (0.059p x N)

‘N’ is the number of electors on the relevant register.

The exact amount that campaign organisers may spend is published in the Statement of Information.

There are certain items that may/may not be included in campaign expenses. Further information on this can be found in The Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) Regulations 2012 (as amended).

Campaign organisers are encouraged to submit a statement of expenses to the Counting Officer via the Electoral Services team at elections@tunbridgewells.gov.uk.

It is an offence for a campaign organiser to exceed the referendum expenses limit and, if found guilty, would be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.

Advice on conduct of campaigns

Whilst there are no specific legal requirements for campaign groups at Neighbourhood Planning Referendums, the Electoral Commission has produced extensive guidance on conduct when campaigning at national referendums, which can be used as a guide.

Please be aware that the Counting Officer cannot give advice on what should or should not be included in campaign material and has no powers to regulate conduct. If you are unsure of any matter, you should seek your own independent legal advice.