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Process of neighbourhood plan-making

The process for preparing a neighbourhood plan is legally prescribed in the Regulations.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government provides national Planning Practice Guidance which answers the most common questions about the preparation of neighbourhood plans, including an overview of the stages involved.

The first stage is the designation of a neighbourhood area (and if appropriate neighbourhood forum). When this is agreed, work on a draft neighbourhood plan can proceed, with evidence gathering and local engagement about issues and priorities. When the scope of the neighbourhood plan is known, the borough council should be asked to determine whether a plan is likely to have significant environmental effects and, hence, would require a Strategic Environmental Assessment

Options should be considered, discussed at least with key stakeholders if not more widely, which leads to drawing together the draft, or ‘pre-submission’ version of the neighbourhood plan. The preparing (or ‘qualifying’) body must then carry out public consultation on the draft plan.

When the consultation responses have been considered and any appropriate amendments made to the plan in the light of the comments, a final draft ‘submission’ version of the plan is produced and submitted, along with other necessary documentation, to the borough council.

Once received, it is the role of the borough council, once it is satisfied that the submitted plan and accompanying material complies with all relevant legislation, to undertake further, formal consultation on the neighbourhood plan (for a minimum of six weeks).

As with the Local Plan, a neighbourhood plan will be subject to an independent Examination. The borough council will appoint an independent examiner (with the agreement of the qualifying body). The examiner reports to both the borough council and the qualifying body. The borough council must formally consider the report. If it accepts the examiner’s report, it will arrange for a local referendum to be held to ensure that the community has the final say on whether the plan comes into force or not.

For further information, please see the Locality website’s Neighbourhood Planning section.