Neighbourhood planning

3. Preparing a neighbourhood plan

Things to think about before you start

Preparing a neighbourhood plan takes time, effort and resources. The plan has to pass through several legal stages and meet a number of legal tests before it can be used. This can take two to three years from initial meetings to the completion of the plan.

If your community is thinking about preparing a neighbourhood plan you should first understand what's involved and whether this is the best way of meeting your aspirations.

There may be other types of planning document which might be more appropriate to address your community priorities, for example, updates to a conservation area appraisal and management strategy or preparing a village or neighbourhood design statement. It may be that your community concerns can be tackled outside the planning system, for example, licensing or parking.  Before you decide to prepare a neighbourhood plan, please talk to us.

Here are some questions you should ask at the early stages:

  • What do you want the plan to achieve?
  • What area should the plan cover?
  • Are there other groups or villages nearby who may want to be included in the plan?
  • What skills and support are available in the local community to help us prepare the plan?
  • How can you ensure that a range of people who live, work and do business in the area are involved in preparing the plan?
  • How can you make sure the local community will support the plan?
  • How long will the plan take to prepare?

Neighbourhood Area Designation

The first stage in preparing a neighbourhood plan is to designate the area the plan will cover. To do this a Parish Council or Neighbourhood Forum must:

  • Tell us in writing that you intend to prepare a neighbourhood plan
  • Give us a plan of the neighbourhood area
  • Explain why the area is appropriate for neighbourhood planning purposes

We will publicise your application for at least six weeks and invite comments from the public.

At the end of the consultation period, our Cabinet will consider any comments made and make a formal decision on your application.

Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan

Following designation of the neighbourhood area, you can start to prepare your neighbourhood plan. There is no set way of doing this as long as the plan meets the legal requirements set out in the regulations.  It will largely depend on what is right for your community.

Plan preparation should generally be based around the following principles:

  • Gathering baseline information about your neighbourhood area to establish the issues you might cover in your plan
  • Carrying out sufficient consultation with the local community, land owners, developers and service providers to identify local issues and to test ways of addressing them.  The neighbourhood plan should reflect what the local community wants to see happen and respond to local priorities.
  • Developing a vision and objectives that reflect identified local priorities following a review of information, evidence and local community views.  This may be, for example, housing growth, building design, or open space.  This will provide a structure for your plan and help you decide what policies you need.
  • Drafting planning policies that will help to deliver the objectives of the plan.  The policies should be based on strong evidence and must be in general conformity with the Gravesham Local Plan Core Strategy and the National Planning Policy Framework, but they do not need to duplicate them.

The draft plan must be publicised for a minimum of six weeks before submitting to us.

Submission of the draft Plan

You must include the following information when formally submitting the draft plan to us:

  • A map of the neighbourhood plan area
  • The draft neighbourhood plan itself
  • A basic conditions statement, explaining how the proposal meets the legal requirements
  • A consultation statement explaining how the community has been consulted and how their views have been taken into account

We will publicise the draft plan for a minimum of six weeks before we submit it, and any comments we receive, to an independent examiner.

Independent Examination

We will appoint an independent examiner to examine the draft plan and decide whether it meets the legal requirements and basic conditions. The examiner will make recommendations about the draft plan which we will publish.

Referendum

Assuming a positive outcome to the examination, we will organise a referendum to formally establish local community support for the plan. If more than 50% of the local community vote in favour of the plan, we will adopt it as a formal planning document. The policies in the plan will then be taken into account and will have the same weight in planning decisions as those in the Local Plan Core Strategy.