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Frequently asked questions

Neighbourhood planning is a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work. The Localism Act has introduced new permissive rights for local communities to prepare a neighbourhood plan, initiate neighbourhood development orders and exercise a community right to build.

Neighbourhood planning is not compulsory, communities need to volunteer to get involved.

In some cases it may be appropriate for communities to use other tools or plans for their local areas.

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A neighbourhood development plan is a plan prepared by a community that helps shape development in the area in which they live. 

Once adopted, a neighbourhood development plan will:

  • Form part of the local statutory development plan
  • Form the basis for determining planning applications in that area. 

Neighbourhood development plans:

  • Can set policies in relation to development and the use of land in the designated area
  • Should identify a collective vision and key local priorities for the sustainable development of the area
  • Can allocate sites for housing or other development
  • Can identify special protection green areas of particular importance to the community
  • Must specify the time period for which they are to cover
  • Can only relate to one neighbourhood area
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Parish and town councils will need to consider whether or not a neighbourhood development plan is the most appropriate planning tool to use. Alternative options may include:

A Neighbourhood Development Order 

Whilst a neighbourhood development plan sets out the policy for an area, a neighbourhood development order can actually grant outline or full planning permission for specified development. 

Neighbourhood development orders will allow new development such as homes and offices to be built without the need to apply for separate planning permission. 

A neighbourhood development order can relate to the whole of, part of, or a specific site within a defined neighbourhood area.

A Community Right to Build Order

This is a particular type of neighbourhood development order which allows smaller-scale development on a specific site to be brought forward without the need for separate planning permission.

This gives communities the ability to develop, for instance, small-scale housing and other facilities that they want to establish, such as a shop, playground or a village hall. 


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The Wiltshire Core Strategy (Local Plan) sets the overarching policy framework for development in Wiltshire.

This is the Development Plan for Wiltshire and will remain the key tool and starting point for determining development proposals in the County.

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The presumption in favour of sustainable development is principally a means of ensuring that local plans and neighbourhood plans are put together in a way which reflects an evidence-based assessment of the social, economic and environmental needs of an area. 

Recent planning reforms strengthen the role of plans (including neighbourhood plans and local plans) in decision making.

The presumption makes clear that planning applications that are in line with local and neighbourhood plans should normally be approved.

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The council’s Guide to Neighbourhood Planning document (see downloads section), sets out the process to be followed in preparing a neighbourhood plan.

In summary, there are thirteen key steps that should be followed in preparing a neighbourhood development plan.

Environmental and sustainability requirements should be taken into account in the scoping and delivery stages.


StageProcess
Stage 1: Scoping
  • Process initiated by a qualifying body
  • Establish a steering group
  • Develop your objectives, priorities and vision
  • Select the most appropriate approach
Neighbourhood area designation
  • Define your neighbourhood area
  • Submit your application
  • Decision notice issued (Six week period of consultation for certain cases)
Stage 2: Delivery
  • Develop your draft plan
  • Six week period of consultation
  • Finalise and submit your plan to Wiltshire Council
  • Six week period of consultation
  • Independent examination
  • Community referendum


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The amount of work will be largely dependent on the content and scope of the plan.

For example the neighbourhood plan could focus on a single issue such as identifying development sites in line with the Wiltshire Core Strategy. However, preparing a neighbourhood plan is likely to take a considerable amount of time and effort, and a timescale of probably 1-2 years.

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There is no fixed format or template for a neighbourhood plan and the cost of preparing a plan is therefore likely to vary depending on the complexity and size of the proposed plan.

However, it is estimated that preparing a neighbourhood plan will cost between £17,000 and £63,000.

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The cost of a neighbourhood development plan will generally be met by the ‘qualifying body’ i.e. the parish / town council(s) that develop the plan.

Wiltshire Council will meet part of the cost in carrying out their statutory duties to support the process, as determined by the Localism Act 2011.

The council’s guide to neighbourhood planning illustrates the stages of the process where the council has a role financially and the council is entitled to apply for central government funding at certain stages in the process.

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Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared by a ‘qualifying body’.

In areas such as Wiltshire where a parish or town council exists, these are the nominated qualifying body. (Outside of these areas, neighbourhood planning can be undertaken by a designated ‘neighbourhood forum’.)

There is a need to consider how to engage with the wider community and Wiltshire Council therefore advocates a steering group approach led by the qualifying body.

Members of steering group should include the parish or town council(s), other local stakeholders as well as members of the community.

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Wiltshire Council has a number of roles to undertake in order to fulfil its duty to support.

These include: 

  • confirming the geographical area of proposed neighbourhood plans
  • providing expertise and advice to parish and town councils
  • hold referendums
  • adopt neighbourhood plans where all legal requirements have been met

It is expected that a spatial planning officer from Wiltshire Council will be an informal member of the steering group who will work with the qualifying body, acting as a ‘link officer’ to help perform the Council’s duty to provide support and advice.

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The amount of evidence that needs to be produced will depend on the scale and ambition of the Neighbourhood Plan or Neighbourhood Development Order.

The plan or order may be able to use existing available evidence such as that used by the local authority in its local plan preparations.

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Neighbourhood plans must be in general conformity with higher level local plans – which in Wiltshire is the Wiltshire Core Strategy.

It is important that communities work closely with Wiltshire Council when developing neighbourhood plans.

We will take an active role in advising and supporting local communities in their plan preparation by sharing evidence, information and ensuring the neighbourhood plan fits with the strategic policies of the Wiltshire Core Strategy and national policy.

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There are no set guidelines which describe what a neighbourhood plan should contain or look like.

However, as set out above, neighbourhood plans must conform with adopted local plans – such as the Wiltshire Core Strategy.

The content of a neighbourhood plan is likely to contain a series of explanatory text, policies and maps.

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A neighbourhood plan will normally last for five years at which point it should be reviewed.

It will also be possible to review the plan within the five year period if necessary.

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When adopted, neighbourhood plans will be statutory planning documents.

They will form part of the local development plan, which is made up of the Local Plan (Wiltshire Core Strategy) and our local planning policy documents.

Once adopted, neighbourhood plans will have significant weight in making decisions on planning applications. 

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A plan or order can be used to shape where and how development takes place but it cannot be used to say no to development.

The process of preparing a plan or order includes understanding what a sustainable and appropriate level of development is for your community and looking at where this additional growth might go.

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The independent examination will be undertaken by an independent examiner appointed by the council to ensure the plan meets the necessary standards and is in conformity with legislation and general conformity with national and local policy. 

The independent examiner may suggest changes to the plan. 

If the plan is found to be satisfactory, then the local authority will arrange for the referendum to take place.

If more than 50% of those voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’, then the Council will adopt the plan.

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It is important that the whole community has the opportunity to be involved in a neighbourhood plan which may have significant effects on the shape of that community in the future.

Alongside the importance of wide community engagement in developing the plan, a referendum is the final method of proving this and providing democratic legitimacy for the content of the plan. 

Parish councils will not have to run the neighbourhood planning referendum – this will be the responsibility of Wiltshire Council. 

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The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a new charge that local authorities in England can place on new development in their area.

The money generated through the levy will contribute to the funding of infrastructure to support growth.

Wiltshire Council has developed a CIL ‘charging schedule’, which set’s the rates of CIL that development is charged.

Further information on CIL in Wiltshire is available online on our community infrastructure levy page.

Amendments made to the CIL Regulations in 2013 now mean that where development takes place within an area that has a neighbourhood development plan in place, the council must pass 25% of the relevant CIL receipts to the parish council for that area.

Areas without a neighbourhood development plan will receive 15% (capped at £100 per council tax dwelling) of the relevant CIL receipts.

Local communities should consider the benefits of revenue from CIL when deciding whether or not to develop a neighbourhood plan.

The financial benefits should be balanced of increased CIL revenue should be balanced against the total cost and commitment required to develop a neighbourhood plan (other planning tools may be a better way for the community to achieve its goals). 

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Establishing whether a neighbourhood plan requires an environmental assessment is an important legal requirement and should form an integral part of the neighbourhood planning preparation process.

Wiltshire Council will determine whether you should undertake an strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of your neighbourhood plan.

If an assessment is required this should take place from the outset when the first initial work is carried out on a neighbourhood plan (when developing your objectives, priorities and vision).

In addition to considering the need for an environmental assessment, although not a legal requirement, it is good practice to consider the social and economic effects of your neighbourhood plan.

This ‘sustainability appraisal’ will help to ensure that your neighbourhood plan contributes to the achievement of sustainable development.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment is an assessment of certain plans and policies on the environment.

A Sustainability Appraisal is an appraisal of the impacts of policies and proposals on economic, social and environmental issues. This can also be a useful tool to assist selecting suitable sites for development.

Finally a Sustainability Appraisal (including Environmental Appraisal) is an appraisal of the economic, environmental and social effects of a plan from the outset of the preparation process to allow decisions to be made that accord with sustainable development. (Environmental appraisal covers only environmental impacts)

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Last updated: 2 February 2017 | Last reviewed: 2 February 2017