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What is Neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood planning gives communities more control over the future of their area by giving local people the chance to have their say on what happens where they live.

The proposals are founded on the principles of localism, which means more involvement by planning authorities, local people, businesses, house builders and developers rather than central government. The neighbourhood planning process has to be led by the town or parish council.

The reforms are outlined in the Localism Act 2011, which seeks to:

  • reduce the volume, complexity and number of applications the current system generates
  • Make sure developments are more beneficial to the community, for example new homes are matched by jobs and investment


What is Neighbourhood Planning? 

Neighbourhood planning provides an opportunity to change attitudes towards development through positive engagement by local communities.

This should mean that through new processes such as neighbourhood planning, communities can benefit from new development.

Put simply, a neighbourhood plan can:

  • Establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a particular area
  • Plans can include local priorities, planning policies, proposals for improving an area or providing new facilities or infrastructure and allocation of key sites for development.

Neighbourhood planning is a tool to promote sustainable growth and will not be able to prevent development in an area.

Neighbourhood plans can only include proposals for an equal (or greater) amount of growth than is set out in the local council development plan.

They must also accord to national planning policy.

Local communities do not have to undertake neighbourhood planning. There are alternative approaches available and we can provide help and advice on these too.

The context of Neighbourhood Planning Policy

  • Planning policy documents (now known as ‘local plans’) are developed by local planning authorities
  • They must be based on clear evidence and assessments of needs, such as new housing provision
  • Are subject to comprehensive public participation and engagement
  • They must also be compliant with the requirements of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The Wiltshire Core Strategy forms part of the development plan for Wiltshire.

The Wiltshire Core Strategy has been developed to be compliant with the NPPF.

The core strategy seeks to deliver an appropriate level of development across Wiltshire in a sustainable manner. Development proposals which do not meet the requirements of the core strategy will be considered unsustainable.

When there is no up-to-date local plan in place, there will be a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’. The presumption being that development will be allowed to proceed providing the development meets the policy requirements in the NPPF.

Neighbourhood plans must be in general agreement with the development plan. It is important that communities work closely with Wiltshire Council when developing plans.

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

Further information on local plans, policies and strategies can be viewed on Wiltshire Council’s planning policy.

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Wiltshire Council has developed a guide specifically targeted towards town and parish councils wishing to explore the neighbourhood planning process along with a step-by-step guide to help parish and town councils carry out an assessment of the environmental (and sustainability) impacts of a neighbourhood plan. These guidance documents can be found at the bottom of this guidance section.

Our role

We offer advice and assistance to town and parish councils that would like to undertake neighbourhood planning. There are also support groups available throughout the process.

As the relevant local authority, we are required to fulfil various legal duties to support neighbourhood planning in Wiltshire.

These include:

  • publishing neighbourhood area applications for consultation
  • designating neighbourhood areas
  • publishing submitted plan proposals
  • appointing the independent examiner, and
  • organising the independent examination and referendum

The Localism Act 2011 also places a legal duty on local planning authorities to give advice or assistance to parish and town councils that want to undertake neighbourhood planning. 

Wiltshire Council advocates a steering group approach when exploring the neighbourhood planning process. The steering group will be allocated a link officer from the Wiltshire Council spatial planning team to provide informal advice and support. 

Steering group

A steering group is a committee of individuals made up of community representatives who will drive forward the neighbourhood planning project on behalf of the town or parish council.


Other Guidance

Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

The DCLG neighbourhood planning webpage provides an overview of how neighbourhood planning works. Central government also post regular bulletins about news and policy developments related to neighbourhood planning online - see notes on neighbourhood planning for more details.

Locality

Locality is leading the ‘supporting communities in neighbourhood planning’ scheme and their My Community Rights website will act as the single entry point to the programme.

Locality is an organisation that can offer help to groups at all stages of the neighbourhood planning process. Locality has produced a guide to understanding neighbourhood planning.

Planning Aid

Part of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Planning Aid England offers planning advice and support to individuals and communities. Planning Aid manage the Forum for neighbourhood planning website that supports people and communities who are using new powers under the Localism Act 2011 to create neighbourhood plans.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)

The CPRE have also produced a guide to neighbourhood planning


Wiltshire Council has developed the following Neighbourhood planning guides:
  • A guide specifically targeted towards parish and town councils wishing to explore the neighbourhood planning process (Parish and ton councils guide)
  • step-by-step guide to help parish and town councils carry out an assessment of the environmental (and sustainability) impacts of a neighbourhood plan (SEA Guide)

Both are available to download in the section below.

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There is no requirement for town and parish councils to undertake neighbourhood planning, and there are a number of alternatives to neighbourhood planning available.

Are you a rural parish and do the issues within your parish solely relate to the appearance or design of buildings?

If so, then maybe consider a Village design statements.

Village design statements

  • inform the design of new development in an area.
  • When adopted, can become supplementary planning guidance and are a consideration which the council must take into account when determining planning applications
  • aim is to encourage developers and householders to design new buildings or extensions (and other elements such as fences and outbuildings) so that they are in keeping with existing local character
  • are written and researched by local communities, with only advisory input from the council
  • represent a community view of how new development should be designed in order to retain a sense of place

Wiltshire Council has produced guidance and a protocol on producing village design statements, both are available to download below.

Once approved by Council Committee, village design statements will become material planning considerations. This means that they are a consideration which the council must take into account when determining planning applications.


If not, then do these issues include the use of land and building design?

If not, then maybe consider a Parish / community area plan.

A parish or community area plan

  • identifies local needs and local views within the community
  • can potentially inform the council’s policies, decisions and actions as well as those of other public service providers.
  • does not have formal status and cannot override local plan policy

Further information on Parish/community area plans can be found by following the below links:


Would you like more detailed policies for your area than those already within the local plan/ core strategy?

It might be worth taking a look at the [local plan / core strategy] to ensure that the policies within do not already cover the local issues you have identified. 

Development within your parish will be considered against the Wiltshire Council Local Plan and Wiltshire Core Strategy and national policy.


Are your policies specific to one site? 

If so, then maybe consider a Neighbourhood Development Order/Community Right to Build Order.


A Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO)

  • can directly grant planning permission for certain kinds of developments within a neighbourhood area
  • This could be full planning permission or outline planning permission
  • Applications
    • can have conditions attached
    • be site-specific
    • or grant more generalised development rights across a neighbourhood area
  • They will become part of Wiltshire Councils Development Plan (subject to independent examination and successful local referendum)
  • Where there is a NDO in place there would not be a need to apply to the council for planning permission for the development it covers (similar to a Local Development Order).


A Community Right to Build Order is a form of Neighbourhood Development Order that can be used to grant planning permission for small scale development for community benefit on a specific site or sites in a neighbourhood area.

A Community Right to Build Order can be used (for example) to approve the building of

  • homes
  • shops
  • businesses
  • affordable housing for rent or sale
  • community facilities
  • playgrounds

Where the community organisation wishes to develop the land itself (subject to acquiring the land if appropriate), then the resulting assets can only be disposed of, improved or developed in a manner which the organisation considers benefits the local community or a section of it.

More information on Neighbourhood Development Orders.


If the policies you have identified relate to the wider local area then it might be worth investigating a Neighbourhood Plan.

A Neighbourhood Plan

  • will set out a vision for an area
  • can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a defined area
  • might specify where new homes and offices should be built and what they should look like
  • sets a vision for the future and can be detailed or general, depending on what local people want
  • will become part of Wiltshire Councils Development Plan (subject to independent examination and successful local referendum)
  • will become a statutory plan and be used in making decisions on planning applications

Neighbourhood planning is a tool to promote sustainable growth and will not be able to prevent development in an area. Neighbourhood plans can only include proposals for an equal (or greater) amount of growth than is set out in the local authority's development plan. They must also accord to national planning policy.

Certain procedures and requirements need to be followed when undertaking neighbourhood planning. We have a duty to assist and support local communities in Wiltshire.

Further information can be found in The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012


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Last updated: 22 February 2017 | Last reviewed: 22 February 2017