Preparing a neighbourhood plan or Order
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What evidence is needed to support a neighbourhood plan or Order?
While there are prescribed documents that must be submitted with a neighbourhood plan or Order there is no ‘tick box’ list of evidence required for neighbourhood planning. Proportionate, robust evidence should support the choices made and the approach taken. The evidence should be drawn upon to explain succinctly the intention and rationale of the policies in the draft neighbourhood plan or the proposals in an Order.
A local planning authority should share relevant evidence, including that gathered to support its own plan-making, with a qualifying body. Further details of the type of evidence supporting a Local Plan can be found here Local Plan.
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How should the policies in a neighbourhood plan be drafted?
A policy in a neighbourhood plan should be clear and unambiguous. It should be drafted with sufficient clarity that a decision maker can apply it consistently and with confidence when determining planning applications. It should be concise, precise and supported by appropriate evidence. It should be distinct to reflect and respond to the unique characteristics and planning context of the specific neighbourhood area for which it has been prepared.
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Can a neighbourhood plan allocate sites for development?
A neighbourhood plan can allocate sites for development. A qualifying body should carry out an appraisal of options and an assessment of individual sites against clearly identified criteria. Guidance on assessing sites and on viability can be found here and here.
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What if a local planning authority is also intending to allocate sites in the same neighbourhood area?
If a local planning authority is also intending to allocate sites in the same neighbourhood area the local planning authority should avoid duplicating planning processes that will apply to the neighbourhood area. It should work constructively with a qualifying body to enable a neighbourhood plan to make timely progress. A local planning authority should share evidence with those preparing the neighbourhood plan, in order for example, that every effort can be made to meet identified local need through the neighbourhood planning process.
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Can a neighbourhood plan allocate additional or alternative sites to those in a Local Plan?
A neighbourhood plan can allocate additional sites to those in a Local Plan where this is supported by evidence to demonstrate need above that identified in the Local Plan.
A neighbourhood plan can propose allocating alternative sites to those in a Local Plan, but a qualifying body should discuss with the local planning authority why it considers the Local Plan allocations no longer appropriate.
The resulting draft neighbourhood plan must meet the basic conditions if it is to proceed. National planning policy states that it should support the strategic development needs set out in the Local Plan, plan positively to support local development and should not promote less development than set out in the Local Plan or undermine its strategic policies (see paragraph 16 and paragraph 184 of the National Planning Policy Framework). Nor should it be used to constrain the delivery of a strategic site allocated for development in the Local Plan.
Should there be a conflict between a policy in a neighbourhood plan and a policy in a Local Plan, section 38(5) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires that the conflict must be resolved in favour of the policy which is contained in the last document to become part of the development plan.
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Should a neighbourhood plan consider infrastructure?
A qualifying body may wish to consider what infrastructure needs to be provided in their neighbourhood area alongside development such as homes, shops or offices. Infrastructure is needed to support development and ensure that a neighbourhood can grow in a sustainable way.
The following may be important considerations for a qualifying body to consider when addressing infrastructure in a neighbourhood plan:
- what additional infrastructure may be needed to enable development proposed in a neighbourhood plan to be delivered in a sustainable way
- how any additional infrastructure requirements might be delivered
- what impact the infrastructure requirements may have on the viability of a proposal in a draft neighbourhood plan and therefore its delivery
- what are the likely impacts of proposed site allocation options or policies on physical infrastructure and on the capacity of existing services, which could help shape decisions on the best site choices
Qualifying bodies should engage infrastructure providers (e.g. utility companies, transport infrastructure providers and local health commissioners) in this process, advised by the local planning authority.
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What should a qualifying body do if it identifies a need for new or enhanced infrastructure?
A qualifying body should set out in their draft neighbourhood plan the prioritised infrastructure required to address the demands of the development identified in the plan.