Neighbourhood Plans - Frequently Asked Questions

Changes to neighbourhood planning in response to Coronavirus

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has released information and advice relating to the effects of Coronavirus/Covid-19 on the neighbourhood planning process.

What does a neighbourhood plan do?

Neighbourhood plans can help to influence the use and development of land in a specific area. They can establish a vision for the area, include general policies for the development and use of land, and bring forward sites for development.

Do parish/town councils have to prepare a plan?

No. It is entirely optional.

It is up to the local community to decide whether or not they wish to prepare a neighbourhood plan. We are keen to help local communities become more involved in planning for their future. However, it is important to note that there are a number of other planning tools, such as parish plans and village design statements, which communities can also use to shape development in their local area.

What are the potential benefits?

Neighbourhood plans are intended to give local people a direct say in the future development of their area. A neighbourhood plan gives local people the chance to create a planning document that guides and shapes development in their local communities. In turn, this will help to influence what facilities are provided in the area. Parishes with an adopted neighbourhood plan will also be entitled to a higher proportion of revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Can a plan be used to block development?

No. Neighbourhood planning is about shaping development of a local area in a positive manner. It is not a tool to be used to prevent development proposals from taking place. It should reflect local and national policies. Neighbourhood plans are not able to promote less development than set out in the local plan or undermine its strategic policies. A Neighbourhood plan can be used to ensure that any development is in line with the wishes of the local people and is sympathetic to local need.

Can it promote more development than the Core Strategy?

Yes. The National Planning Policy Framework makes explicit reference to the opportunity for neighbourhood plans to promote more development than is set out in the local plan.

Can my community have a plan?

Yes. Any community may prepare a neighbourhood plan. In our district, the town or parish council will be the relevant 'qualifying' body to initiate and lead a neighbourhood plan. This can be the entirety of the area covered by the parish or town, or just part of it. It is also possible that if some parishes wish to work together, they can produce a joint neighbourhood plan.

Can there be more than one plan?

No. There can only be one neighbourhood plan for each neighbourhood plan area. It is therefore important to consider carefully what goes into it.

What's the difference between parish plans, village design statements and neighbourhood plans?

The concept of neighbourhood planning is not entirely new. Some communities have already been involved in planning their local areas through other types of community-led plan, such as parish plans and village design statements (VDS). These are non-statutory planning tools and therefore they do not form part of the council's development plan. More information can be found here about the difference and benefits of these types of plans.

Are parish plans and village design statements still valid?

Yes. Parish plans and village design statements still remain as tools that communities might use to deliver their aspirations for their areas. They can also provide a good starting point for communities when thinking about preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Are there limits to what can be put in a plan?

Yes. There are a number of conditions that will need to be met:

  • Have regard to national policies and advice, such as the National Planning Policy Framework
  • Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
  • Be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the area (our Core Strategy and our other development plan documents)
  • Be compatible with European obligations and human rights requirements

Plans will have to be considered by an independent examiner to ensure that they are legally compliant and consistent with these requirements.

Following the independent examination, a local referendum will be held so that the whole community has the opportunity to vote on whether or not to adopt the plan. A majority vote (more than 50%) of the local community is needed to progress the plan towards adoption by Stratford District Council.

What help can Stratford District Council provide?

Our Planning Policy team are able to provide guidance on neighbourhood planning and advice about the process. The level of support will depend on the number of enquiries we receive and the available resources. However, we can provide the following help:

  • Sharing evidence and information on planning issues
  • Helping with public consultation events
  • Providing advice on national and local planning policies that the plan or neighbourhood development order will need to accord with
  • Providing advice on which organisations you will need to consult
  • Organising the independent examination of the Plan
  • Organising the community referendum

How much is it likely to cost?

The cost of producing a neighbourhood plan will depend largely on scope, complexity and size of the plan. The latest government estimates suggest that plans could cost between £20,000 and £86,000 and take between one and two years to prepare.

Who pays for the plan?

  • Town and parish councils are responsible for paying for the preparation of the plan
  • The District Council will pay for the examination and referendum

How much work will it involve?

The amount of work involved will largely depend on the level of detail that it is included in the plan. Neighbourhood plans need to be based on appropriate, proportionate and up-to date evidence. In addition, there are minimum statutory requirements, such as a sustainability appraisal and habitat regulations assessment, which will need to be completed alongside the plan. We can provide technical support and guidance to help you through the process.

Find out more

Contact: The Planning Policy team

Last updated on 08/07/2022