Neighbourhood Planning one year on: Current practice and the role for urban design


An edited version of this paper appears in issue 123 of ‘Urban Design‘, the Journal of the Urban Design Group.

The concept of Neighbourhood Planning was launched by the Government to much fanfare at the end of 2010.  It was to signal a brave new dawn for planning, providing a very real opportunity to deliver meaningful change at a local level.  Indeed, it was to provide an opportunity for local residents and groups to actually lead the plan-making process.  Many early commentators suggested that localism would be no more than a charter for Nimbyism.  That certainly wasn’t Government’s intention.  They saw it as a way of helping to deliver growth and development.  As Greg Clark MP put it:

“When people know that they will get proper support to cope with the demands of new development; when they have a proper say over what new homes will look like; and when they can influence where those homes go, they have reasons to say “yes” to growth”.

Now more than a year on and with the Localism Act about to be rolled out in full, what has actually happened?  In early 2011, applications were invited from CLG for a dozen or so Neighbourhood Planning Vanguards, who were to test the new approach before the Localism Bill became enacted.  The Vanguards quickly became rebranded as the Frontrunners and expanded in number from a dozen to 208 through five bidding rounds, each receiving £20,000 in funding.

With the Localism Bill becoming an Act in November 2011, and with relevant parts of that being rolled out in April this year, it is perhaps a good time to see where we are and what lessons, if any, have been learnt and can be learned from the first year of Neighbourhood Planning, and, for the purposes of this article, is there a role for urban design in the process?

IS IT A NEW DAWN?

Is Neighbourhood Planning actually the new dawn we were led to believe?  The answer has to be both yes and no.  Locally driven and responsive plans have been embedded in the plan-making system since 1947.  In the third reading of the Town & Country Planning Bill, 1947, Lord Silkin wrote:

It is not merely landowners in the area who are affected or even business interests.  Too often in the past the objections of a noisy minority have been allowed to drown the voices of other people vitally affected.  These too must have their say, and when they have had it, the provisional plan may need a good deal of alteration, but it will be all the better for that since it will reflect actual needs democratically expressed.  In the past, plans have been too much the plans of officials and not the plans of individuals, but I hope we are going to stop that.”

This aspiration has, to some degree, been taken forward by the many village plans, parish plans and community planning statements that have been prepared across the country.  These provide a good basis for the production of Neighbourhood Plans.  But perhaps the real difference between these and what is now proposed is that the Neighbourhood Plan will (if found ‘sound’) form part of the statutory development plan.  The wishes of the community, as expressed through the Neighbourhood Plan, will thus now carry very real weight.

Here though is the challenge.  For the Neighbourhood Plan to be adopted as part of the development plan, it needs to be robust and justified, it needs to have the support of the community and it needs to stand up to scrutiny at examination.  And, before you even get going, you need the support of the local authority.  So, how do you achieve all these things?  What has been happening to date?

THE FRONTRUNNERS

A Neighbourhood Plan can cover many things.  It can (and perhaps should) include a vision of what the area should be in the future, it can include general principles and planning policies, identify development and opportunity sites, establish the scale and location of growth, and establish design parameters.  It would seem there is plenty of scope for urban design here.  But what is happening in practice?

Last year, SKM Colin Buchanan surveyed those applicants[i] who had successfully received funding from the first four waves of the Government’s Frontrunner programme.  These first four waves account for 126 of the frontrunners.  We had responses from 45, spread across the country, in towns and villages, parished and unparished areas.  We received feedback on who the ‘neighbourhood planners’ are, how the plan is being funded, what challenges, or issues are being faced, and what lessons have been and can be learnt.  Some of the key messages emerging from this were:

  • The vast majority of frontrunner neighbourhood plans are being led by communities – only five of the 45 which responded were local authority led.  So, the ‘community’ is taking the opportunity forward.
  • Many have spent time early in the process establishing effective governance, including involving local politicians.  Many groups have a head start in this and are able to make use of groups and forums, their outreach, governance structures and any community-led plans previously prepared.  They are an excellent basis for taking the process forward.  The findings of the work to date also suggest that project plans and terms of reference for the Forum or Steering Group should be established at the outset.  Strong leaders should be identified and the groups leading the process should try and involve all, including business and developers.
  • Most respondents were unclear as to what the core purpose of their neighbourhood plan will be and what form it will take beyond the inclusion of general policies and principles.  This is perhaps not surprising, given that many have spent time to date setting up the administrative framework within which the forum should operate and consulting on issues and potential opportunities.  The final form and content of the plan will emerge over time.  However, this does raise issues about resourcing: a detailed masterplan for example might be visionary and engaging, but may also involve more technical and professional inputs and, importantly, costs.
  • Conversely nearly all were absolutely clear what their plan will not include.  More than 60% of the respondents said their plan would not include information on the mix and quantum of development for the area.
  • There is a huge variety of approaches being followed by the frontrunners and this should please ministers – but it remains unclear what some plans will actually deliver.
  • Unsurprisingly, the biggest challenges are time and resources for the groups preparing the plans.  Lack of knowledge and understanding of the planning system was also cited as an obstacle.  Most of those who responded said that communities lack resources and expertise.  The question here is how local authorities will provide support.  The Neighbourhood Plan process requires commitment, time and resources.
  • The majority of respondents see the process from commencement to submission for examination taking at least 18 months.  Given experience of the LDF system, how many communities will have the stamina for an 18 month neighbourhood plan process?  Add in the examination process and the referendum and this could be longer.  How many will make it to the finish line?
  • Funding is generally being spread between officer support and passing directly to the Parish or Neighbourhood Forum.  Some earmarked the funding for document production, the examination and referendum.  Funding is thus being spread thinly and there are concerns as to how the overall process will be funded.  Local authorities should identify and provide sufficient resources to help the process.

These are all worthy of in-depth debate and discussion in their own right.  It would appear that most have spent time to date establishing the appropriate framework for developing the Plan, i.e.: the governance structures, roles, responsibilities and relationships with the local authority.  This is all well and good, but it does mean that many of those responding to our survey have spent time on that rather than on the plan itself.  This could in part be a reflection of the guidance, or lack thereof, from CLG on how a Neighbourhood Plan should be prepared and what should be in it.  It does also mean that the actual time taken for production of the plan could be quite long.  Experience of preparing Core Strategies and LDF documents would suggest that a quicker process is needed, particularly if the interest of unpaid members of the community, who are ultimately responsible for the Plan, is to be maintained.  If interest is to be maintained, can a design based Plan prove to be a successful route to take?  Although many of the respondents to the survey suggested their plan would not include a masterplan or design guidance, nearly all acknowledged that it is the design aspects that can excite and engage, and, importantly, help communicate issues and opportunities.  So, is there a role for the designer?

IS THERE A ROLE FOR THE URBAN DESIGNER?

Although most respondents to our survey suggested that their Neighbourhood Plan will not comprise a masterplan nor include any design guidance, they don’t actually need to.  It may well be that the Core Strategy or Local Plan for that area provides sufficient detail on these matters and, if not addressed in the Neighbourhood Plan, they will continue to take precedence.  There are though some (more limited) Neighbourhood Plans that are seeking to provide design guidance and masterplans, and where this is the case, respondents to our survey indicated a real need for skills and advice to assist in this.  This suggests the involvement of the urban designer will be down to the nature and content of the plan.  I don’t think it is quite that simple.

In some Neighbourhood Plans, for example, the future of the High Street or local centre is the focus of the Plan.  On one level this might look at the type and mix of activities present.  Some Plans are for example focussing on the preponderance of fast-food outlets and betting shops.  But, dig a little deeper, and issues of grain, scale, adaptability and public realm quality start coming to the fore.

These are issues that might not be fully understood but which are important principles for the making of good places.  They are issues that can be drawn out and explored through the design process.

Indeed, it is the design element, and involvement in this, that often excites people more than any other part of the plan making process, bringing communities together, helping to create a sense of ownership, transparency and ownership over the plan.  It is the design process that can help visually communicate issues and opportunities, help lay public understand, be excited and engaged.  So why then, does experience from the Frontrunners suggest that those Plans coming forward might not include much by the way of design?  It might be due to a lack of skills or understanding, or it might just be that the Neighbourhood Planners haven’t got that far yet.

A recent London Assembly report[ii] however highlighted what it terms the ‘capacity gap’ in neighbourhood planning.  It highlights the often bureaucratic and multi-layered planning process and technical knowledge needed to navigate this, the lack of mutual trust that often exists between communities and officers, the lack of skills that often exist within the profession to facilitate and engage with communities.  But going further than this, it is perhaps fair to say that it is not just an understanding of the planning process that is lacking, but also the role and function of urban design.  And this might be why few of the Frontrunners are embedding design into their Plan.

Some places have though been fortunate in that they benefit from having a pool of professional skills and resources residing in their Neighbourhoods and who are contributing to the Plan, helping address the skills deficit.  The Chatsworth Road Neighbourhood Plan in London is a good case in point.  This is perhaps the ‘frontrunner ahead of the frontrunners’.  It has no central Government funding but has made great strides, drawing upon skills residing within the plan area but also making full use of social media and other engagement techniques to involve as many as possible.

Here, a set of propositions and over-arching aspirations have been used as a way of exploring issues and opportunities.  These use simple and easily understood concepts to introduce planning and design principles and help people think differently about a place.  So, those that don’t really understanding urban design can, through this approach, get a real feel for good place making principles.  If we take the example from Chatsworth Road of ‘our neighbourhood will embrace a diverse range of people and uses’, this, in urban design terms, can lead to considerations about the scale, footprint, flexibility and adaptability of buildings.  ‘Our neighbourhood will be easy and safe to get around’ leads to considerations about legibility, active building frontages, mix of uses, public realm and the balance between vehicular and pedestrian movement.

The challenge here is that some of these considerations lead to long term solutions and these might not necessarily tie up with community aspirations which, given the potentially short life span of a forum (which might only exist for five years), may focus on short term change and quick wins.  The professional can help here: although it is important to develop locally specific change that is deliverable in the short term, an understanding of the bigger picture and longer term thinking is important.  Here the professional can bring the macro and micro scale thinking.

Euan Mills, who is leading the Chatsworth Road plan, espouses the concept of ‘design thinking’.  Not necessarily a linear approach, it allows problems to be framed, the right questions to be asked, more ideas to be created, and then the best solutions selected.  It removes the making of judgements from the early stages, so encourages a greater degree of involvement by all.

Elsewhere, storytelling is being considered as a simple yet interesting and engaging way to present the challenges and future opportunities for an area.  (Design Council) Cabe has been promoting this approach to the production of LDF documents for some time[iii].  The urban designer has a big role to play here.  Well illustrated plans, strong on visual communication, will help understand why local character and identity is important, understand spatial implications of change, provide clarity and the means to understand what is proposed or should take place and why.

There clearly is a role for the urban designer, but that role might need to change[iv] in response to localism and neighbourhood planning, with the traditional role of the planner / urban designer been redefined, from one of planning and managing change to one of facilitation and communication.  It requires much more by way of engagement, mediation, assistance and even education.

But perhaps with any of these things, the role and involvement of the urban designer will all depend on the availability of funding.  In the current climate, with funding limited or even non-existent, Neighbourhood Planning perhaps provides scope for built environment professionals to make their contribution to the big society….

 


[i] Our survey was sent to the local authorities where neighbourhood plans have been funded through the frontrunner programme.  Although they may not actually be leading the process, they were the qualifying body and recipient of Government money.

[ii] London Assembly, February 2012, Beyond Consultation: The role of neighbourhood plans in supporting local involvement in planning

[iii] Cabe, 2009, Planning for Places: Delivering Good Design through Core Strategies

[iv] SKM Colin Buchanan, January 2011, The Challenges Ahead: How should the planning profession respond?

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How many different types of Neighbourhood Plan are there?


Many wondered early on what should be in the neighbourhood plan and what form it should take.  Should it include a comprehensive masterplan and design guidance for individual sites?   Could it present generic principles for the future of the area?  Could it focus on a single issue?  At previous presentations and conferences CLG confirmed it could be any and all of these.

Indeed, analysis of the frontrunners by CLG, has pointed to six different types of plan that are emerging.  They include:

Mini Local Plans:

  • Comprehensive coverage of policy issues
  • Allocate development sites for wide range of uses

Policy and Allocation Plans:

  • Neighbourhood plans covering a narrower range of issues
  • Often theme specific
  • Allocate development sites for narrow range of uses

Single Policy Document:

  • Neighbourhood Plan covering a single policy issue (e.g.: protection of green space)

Policy Plans:

  • Neighbourhood Plans covering a broad range of policy issues
  • No site allocations
  • Similar to parish plans
  • Augment local plan policy

Neighbourhood Development Order (Minor development):

  • Residential – minor development (e.g.: house extensions, windows)
  • Town centre – change of use / minor changes signage
  • Business park / industrial estate minor development

Neighbourhood Development Order (Site specific)

  • Development of a particular site (e.g.: small housing scheme under Community right to Build)

For more on this, see the presentations made at the recent Planning Aid London event.

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NPPF: Briefing


What is the NPPF?

The NPPF sets out national planning policies for England.  These apply with immediate effect.

The NPPF reduces and distils over 1,000 pages of policy across more than 40 documents into just 59 pages.  The intention is that this will lead to a simpler, more accessible planning system while aiming to strengthen local decision making and reinforce the importance of up-to-date plans.

It supersedes and replaces almost all previous national planning policy statements (PPS) and planning policy guidance notes (PPG).  One notable exception is PPS 10 on waste which remains in force until the National Waste Management Plan for England is published.  The Government has also signalled its intention to revoke Regional Strategies.  This will happen as soon as the environmental assessment of that decision has been completed.

The NPPF does not address nationally significant infrastructure projects, which will be set out in national policy statements for major infrastructure.

What is ‘Sustainable Development’?

The NPPF introduces a presumption in favour of sustainable development.  This is the golden-thread now running through the new guidance.  If it can be demonstrated that proposed development is sustainable and fits with local policy then it should have a good chance of being approved.

The NPPF goes back to the high level 1987 Bruntland Report definition of sustainable development which talks about meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations.  It also refers to the five guiding principles established in the 2005 UK Sustainable Development Strategy, being (1) living with the planet’s environmental limits; (2) ensuring a strong, healthy and just society; (3) achieving a sustainable economy; (4) promoting good governance; and (5) using sound science responsibly.

Sustainable development will be achieved through implementation of policies set out in paragraphs 18 through 219 of the NPPF.  Underpinning this is the need to improve the quality of life, the natural, built and historic environment.

What are the Key Messages?

Housing and Development

  • Local planning authorities should plan to meet the full, objectively assessed housing needs for the area.
  • Local Planning authorities should continue to identify a five year supply of deliverable land for housing.  An additional buffer of 5% should also be identified, although this is increased to 20% where there is a history of under performance in terms of housing development.
  • Local authorities can include an element of windfall development in their five-year supply if there is compelling evidence that such sites have consistently come forward and will continue to.
  • New settlements or extensions to villages and towns that follow the principles of Garden Cities might help deliver the supply of new homes.
  • Planning policies should encourage the re use of previously developed, brownfield land.  Locally appropriate targets for the use of brownfield land can be set by the local authority.
  • Protection of the green belt remains, though the quality of green belt land should be enhanced.  Green belt boundaries should only be altered in exceptional circumstances or through review of the Local Plan.
  • Local and Neighbourhood Plans should develop robust and comprehensive design policies.  Local design review panels should be set up.  Applications of a poor design should be refused.

Economy

  • Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth through the planning system.
  • The sequential test for planning applications for town centre uses in out of centre locations should be applied.
  • Planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment uses where there is no prospect of a site being used for that purpose.

Environment

  • LPAs should aim to minimise pollution and other adverse effects on the local and natural environment.  Plans should allocate land with the least environmental or amenity value.
  • A new Local Plan designation for Local Green Space will enable communities to rule out development other than in very special circumstances.
  • The presumption in favour of sustainable development (paragraph 14 of the NPPF) does not apply where development requiring appropriate assessment under the Birds or Habitats Directives is being considered, planed or determined.
  • Smarter use of technologies should be investigated in order to reduce the need to travel

Flood Risk, Climate Change and Energy

  • Local planning authorities should adopt proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, flood risk, coastal change and water supply.  The sequential and exception tests for development in areas at risk of flooding remains.  Further guidance on this is provided in the accompanying Technical Guidance document along with some mineral policies transferred from MPG
  • Renewable and low carbon energy generation is seen as central to future sustainable development.  LPAs are required to identify areas as suitable for renewable and low-carbon energy development, and make clear what criteria have determined their selection, including for what size of development the areas are considered suitable.

What are the implications for Local Plans? 

The NPPF reinforces the principles of the plan-led system.

Planning decisions should be taken in accordance with the Local Plan, unless material considerations suggest otherwise.  Where a Local Plan is absent, silent or out-of-date, planning permission should be granted unless it does not comply with the policies contained within the NPPF.

The NPPF encourages the production of a single Local Plan; and Supplementary Planning Documents where justified.  These should not place additional financial burdens on developers.  Only policies that provide a clear indication of how a development proposal will be reacted to by decision makers should be included in the Plan.

Local Planning Authorities have twelve months from publication of the NPPF to bring existing plans into conformity with the NPPF.  In the meantime, full weight will be given to adopted Plans, on the basis that there is only a limited degree of conflict with NPPF

LPAs should collaborate   with neighbouring authorities on cross boundary issues, particularly in terms of housing and infrastructure matters.

What should be in the Local Plan?

Local Plans should reflect the vision and objectives of the local community.

They should set out policies that guide how the presumption in favour of sustainable development should be applied at the district level and they should encourage local people to bring neighbourhood plans forward.

Local organisations, communities and businesses thus need to be proactively engaged in the production of the Local Plan.

Local Plans will continue to be subject to independent examination.  They will be assessed against the duty to cooperate on cross boundary issues, legal and procedural requirements.  A Plan will be found sound if can be demonstrated that it has been positively prepared, is justified, effective and consistent with the NPPF.

The Local Plan should identify broad locations for strategic development, allocate sites to promote development and the flexible use of land, identify any areas where development would be inappropriate and contain strategies for enhancing the environment.  They should contain a proposals map.

 

To find out more, contact:

John Pounder,
SKM Colin Buchanan
jpounder@globalskm.com
020 7939 6323

Tim Hammond
SKM Enviros
thammond@globalskm.com
01743 284 834

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London Assembly recommendations for Neighbourhood Planning


The London Assembly (Planning & Housing Committee) report of it’s investigation into ‘the role of neighbourhood plans in supporting local involvement in planning’ was published yesterday.  Snappily title ‘Beyond Consultation’ and avaliable for download here, it sets out seven recommendations.  Although primarily focused on the Capital, there will be some relevance to those operating in other parts of the country.  In particular, we look forward to the publication of any future guidance material based on the findings of the frontrunners.  We have of course already pulled some lessons together from those (here), though there is still some way to go before any of the frontrunners get to the finishing line.  The recommendations, all sensible, are:

Recommendation 1

The Mayor should produce best practice guidance based on the results of the early front-runner schemes and other neighbourhood planning initiatives in London that highlight the range of ways to define a neighbourhood and set out how difficulties have been dealt with in different locations.

Recommendation 2

The Mayor should look to include neighbourhood planning in future OAPFs, and clarify how neighbourhood level planning issues can usefully be considered within OAPFs in his Draft SPG, providing advice to local authorities and communities in that regard.

Recommendation 3

As neighbourhood planning places additional demands upon stretched local authority resources, we recommend that the Local Government Association review the role of local councillors in neighbourhood planning and set out some guidelines on what role councillors can, as a minimum, be expected to play.

Recommendation 4

Local authorities and neighbourhood forums should seek an open dialogue on how the government grants for front runner schemes and other neighbourhood planning initiatives are best spent, and what additional funding or support can be provided.

Recommendation 5

London Boroughs should also consider reviewing how they can adjust their current structure and approach to support neighbourhood planning, given the constraints of resources and workload. Once the impact and results from examples become evident – for example, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s new planning team structure – these could be used as best practice.

Recommendation 6

We recommend that all groups and forums should assess their own strengths and weaknesses against a number of factors including leadership skills, planning knowledge, access to information and communication skills.

Recommendation 7

The Mayor should support existing networks of community and voluntary organisations, boroughs and other interested parties in setting up a neighbourhood planning network to support and encourage exploratory work. A scoping meeting to discuss steps forward should take place after the Mayoral election.

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The Portas Review and Neighbourhood Planning


Subject to much hype and fanfare, the Portas Review (An independent review into the future of our high streets) was published yesterday.  For those of you interested in Neighbourhood Planning, here are some of the highlights, and some early thoughts, which we’ll add to in due course:

  • A high profile campaign should be run to get people involved in Neighbourhood Planning
  • The inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans should be promoted
  • Establish Town Teams to establish a future vision and strategy for High Streets
  • Empower Business Improvement Districts to take on more responsibilities and powers

Neighbourhood planning is thus very much to the fore.  Inclusion of a High Street in the Neighbourhood Plan will of course depend on the area covered by the plan.  This has been much debated on this blog and elsewhere.  There is a certain logic to having the High Street as the focus and heart of the Neighbourhood Plan, but some plans will focus on residential areas and business districts.

Perhaps the bigger point being made here is that for those places that do include a centre of some sort, the very important social and economic role and function of that centre should be recognised and strengthened.  This then leads to the representative nature of the Neighbourhood Forum that should be responsible for taking the Plan forward.  The draft neighbourhood planning regulations make it clear that these need to include a cross section of all people and organisations in the area; so for a High Street, that will inevitably include business organisations and traders.  The key here is to take a partnership-led approach to delivering change and improvement.  There is no reason why a BID shouldn’t be part of this, and indeed, some of the front runners are following this model – see for example Bankside in London.

The review recognises that consultation needs to move away from the ‘noisy minority’.  Truly representative Neighbourhood Forums and interesting, engaging consultation techniques can help.  Consultation methods followed in the Town Team model (developed originally by Yorkshire Forward and rolled out successfully in many other places across the country) have created charters, built capacity and created a lasting legacy for the quality of place.  There is no reason why these methods can’t be employed by the Neighbourhood Forum.

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Need to know what and who a Neighbourhood Forum is?


We have been asked by a few people what a Neighbourhood Forum is.  For those of you that have read the draft Neighbourhood Planning Regs, you will have noted that it points you to Section 61F of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.  What it really means is Section 61F of the Localism Bill.  In summary, that states that a Neighbourhood Forum can be designated if the local authority is satisfied that ‘it has been established for the purpose of promoting or improving the social, economic and environmental well-being of an area‘.

The Forum should have a written constitution and should comprise a minimum of 21 people.  All of the members should:

  • live in the neighbourhood area subject to the plan;
  • work in the neighbourhood area; or
  • be an elected member of a council body within which the plan area falls.

Membership of the Forum is open to individuals who satisfy one of the three criteria above.  The Forum should draw it’s membership from ‘different places in the neighbourhood area concerned and from different sections of the community in that area‘.

The Forum will be designated for a period of five years, although the plan period may be longer than this.  The local authority can de-designate a Forum before the five year period has come to an end if it ceases to fulfill the criteria set out above.

The Forum and associated Plan area can straddle authority boundaries, but that raises questions about the ‘duty to cooperate’ and ‘general conformity’ to policies in different Core Strategies or Local Plans.  But that is one for another day….

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Neighbourhood Planning: Lessons from the Frontrunners


There are 126 Neighbourhood Planning Frontrunners and a further fifth wave of funding will be announced soon.  The frontrunner programme was intended to test this new approach to planning before the Localism bill is enacted.  That now appears imminent.  So how have the frontrunners been approaching the process, what have they spent the funding on and what advice would they give to others?

Our survey, undertaken at the end of October 2011 sought to find out.  Responses were received from 45 of the frontrunners, representing an excellent cross section of authorities across the country.

Key Findings:

  • The vast majority of frontrunner neighbourhood plans are being led by communities – only 5 of the 45 which responded were local authority led.
  • Most respondents are unclear what the core purpose of their neighbourhood plan will be and what form it will take beyond the inclusion of general policies and principles.  Conversely nearly all were absolutely clear what their plan will not include.  For example more than 60% of the respondents said their plan would not include information on the mix and quantum of development for the area.
  • However, more than 80% of respondents said that resistance to growth was not a challenge for them.
  • In rural parished areas it is proving much more straightforward to define neighbourhood plan boundaries than in unparished urban locations.
  • Unsurprisingly, the biggest challenges are time and resources for the groups preparing the plans.  Lack of knowledge and understanding of the planning system was also cited as an obstacle.
  • Establishing effective governance including involvement of local politicians is seen as an important task at the outset of the plan making process.
  • The majority of respondents see the process from commencement to submission for examination taking at least 18 months.
  • Funding is generally being spread between officer support and passing directly to the Parish or Neighbourhood Forum.  Some earmarked the funding for document production, the examination and referendum.

Issues Arising:

  • There is a huge variety of approaches being followed by the frontrunners and this should please ministers – but it remains unclear what some plans will actually deliver.
  • Few of the frontrunners appear to be ‘planning for growth’ i.e.: establishing higher development targets than established in local plans.
  • How many communities will have the stamina for an 18 month neighbourhood plan process?  Add in the examination process and the referendum and this could be longer.  How many will make it to the finish line?
  • Most of those who responded said that communities lack resources and expertise – how will local authorities be able to help?  Will they provide dedicated support through Neighbourhood Planning officers?
  • Neighbourhood Planning provides plenty of opportunities for built environment professionals with knowledge of the planning system to make their contribution to the big society.

Some Tips:

  • Agree a project plan and terms of reference for the Forum or Steering Group at the outset.  Identify a timetable for production of the plan.
  • Identify strong leaders who can drive the process forward.
  • Try and involve all in the process: think partnership – don’t be afraid to speak to businesses and developers.
  • Make use of social media and other outreach techniques to engage with as much as the community as possible.
  • Make use of existing groups and forums, their outreach, governance structures and any community-led plans previously prepared.  They are an excellent basis for taking the process forward.
  • Make use of CLG funding and advice, particularly those that have been awarded funding expressly for that purpose, but also make use of the wealth of free material published and on-line.
  • Consider whether a Neighbourhood Plan is the right vehicle for what you want to achieve.
  • Identify any and all policy issues that might need considering in the Plan, particularly those where issues of general conformity might arise.
  • Local authorities should identify and provide sufficient resources to help the process.

Notes:

As qualifying bodies for the CLG frontrunner funding, the survey purposely focussed on local authorities

Surveys were sent to all 126 frontrunners.  Responses were received from 45: representing a 36% response rate.

Responses were received from across the country, in both rural and urban areas, parished and unparished.

CLG have announced four rounds, or waves, of funding for Neighbourhood Planning rontrunners.  The deadline for submissions for a fifth wave was 5 November.

Four organisations have received funding from CLG to assist communities in planning: Planning Aid, Locality, NALC and the Prince’s Foundation.

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