Scope and legislative framework
Production of a neighbourhood plan is the means by which a local community can take responsibility for land use planning in their area, potentially covering matters such as the location of houses, shops and community facilities, the setting of design standards for new development, or the identification and conservation of local heritage assets and green spaces.
Neighbourhood plans, when finally approved (referred to as ‘made’), become part of the statutory development plan, which means that they are a key document in the determination of planning applications in that area.
The legal context for preparation of neighbourhood plans is provided by the Localism Act and the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations, as amended.
In ‘parished’ areas, neighbourhood plans can only be undertaken by the relevant town or parish council (or combination of town/parish councils if the area straddles boundaries). Elsewhere, they may be prepared by a duly constituted 'Neighbourhood Forum'. Their preparation is a discretionary power.
Preparation of a neighbourhood plan offers a locally-led route to setting local planning policies in addition to, or sometimes in place of, those put forward through the borough council’s Local Plan. This does not mean that neighbourhood plans have ‘free rein’; they need to be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the borough council (which are set out in its Local Plan), as well as having regard to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and according to relevant legislation.