The Localism Act 2011
The Localism Act has introduced a new type of community led plan, building on earlier attempts to develop Parish and Village Plans. Communities now have the right to produce a Neighbourhood Plan, setting out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or neighbourhood area. Where the Local Authority’s Local Plan/Core Strategy identifies a requirement for growth within the area, the Neighbourhood Plan will show how that level of growth can be met, so as to be consistent with the wishes of the community. Neighbourhood Plans have the potential to strengthen the intent behind earlier initiatives such as Village and Parish Plans.
Village Plans and Neighbourhood Plans
In recent years many village communities developed a Village Plan or Parish Plan intended to help guide the provision of services and facilities within the village, as well as influencing planning applications for developments in their area. Usually these were based on a village-wide questionnaire of all residents, seeking their views on aspects of village life from housing to recreation, from traffic to the environment.
Local examples include the West Horsley Parish Plan (based on a questionnaire in 2008) and Bookham Vision whose report was produced in 2010. In Effingham, VERA (Village of Effingham Residents Appraisal) was carried out in 2000 using a village-wide questionnaire. The VERA report gave an interesting view of residents’ opinions about services and facilities in the village, but it was not progressed into a Village Plan.
These early Village Plans differed from the new Neighbourhood Planning initiative in the extent that they could set out a vision for an area but did not constitute formal input into local planning policy. Now, within the Localism Act (2011), there is provision for local communities to have a stronger, more formal input into the future planning of their area through the preparation of Neighbourhood Plans (sometimes called Neighbourhood Development Plans). These must be consistent with local authority planning policies (the Local Plan), but they provide the opportunity for communities to have a formal influence on the sort of development that is acceptable in their area. Neighbourhood Plans will be adopted and become part of local planning policy if they receive a 50% ‘yes’ vote in a public referendum. A Neighbourhood Plan might also result in a Neighbourhood Development Order which would grant planning permission for specific proposals if the community agrees.
Several communities in Surrey have already embarked on the road to preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. A nearby example is Bookham Vanguard, which has won government support for the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan based on the earlier Bookham Vision work – their website is http://www.bookhamvanguard.co.uk. Few communities have yet produced a Neighbourhood Plan, but the brief Plan ready for submission by parish councils in Upper Eden in Yorkshire provides an example showing the sort of local planning policies which are possible http://www.eden.gov.uk/upperedenneighbourhoodplan/