How to submit a neighbourhood plan

All parishes and towns in the UK are being asked to develop Neighbourhood Plans, what are these?

They are development plans for each parish or town that will be approved by the Independent Examiner appointed by the Local Planning Authority and through a local referendum by the associated residents. Once in place they will underpin all planning approvals within that Parish or town and all planning applications should comply with the Neighbourhood Plan. This is part of the new government legislation known in Westminster as Localism.

This legislation can put power into the hands of the Parish and Town Councils but to do this there are some hurdles that need to be cleared during the process of getting approval of a Neighbourhood Plan. To gain approval by the Independent Examiner it will need to fit with the Local Plan for housing in Cornwall and at this time the proposed Local Plan targets the addition of 47,500 new houses in Cornwall by 2030. Cornwall council has a process to share out the expected additional development across the towns and Parishes across Cornwall utilising the Community Network Panels a forum where Parish and Town Councils in one area share information. It appears from this hurdle that the Government is telling the Councils where to build and when and to some extent they are but an approved Neighbourhood Plan can protect a location from opportunist developments by Construction Companies and Landowners in the future, how?

Lets look at a hypothetical Parish in Cornwall it has around 3000 residents living in 900 houses in a rural area with 5 clearly defined villages supporting several farms and some other small rural businesses including tourist accommodation. There is a small primary school but secondary education and medical services are provided in a nearby town that is reached on a narrow country road. There is a small village shop and active community groups, it’s a pretty village and most of the residents like it just the way it is, no one wants a developer to come in and build 80 houses in the green field behind Church, a rumour that has been circulating in the Parish. There is a local need for some low cost housing in the Parish and it is apparent that there is a need for some small properties suitable for older local residents to move into and maintain their independence, perhaps the construction of 12 new properties in the Parish by 2030, a requirement that is generally agreed by the residents of the Parish as reasonable and acceptable.

This hypothetical parish sounds familiar to many real parishes in Cornwall some bigger some smaller with housing needs varying concurrent with size of the parish. These hypothetical development targets are within the realms of what could be accepted by the Independent Examiner.

If a Neighbourhood Plan were to be developed for this village showing proposed locations for these 12 new houses with all supporting information to demonstrate the local need and the plan was approved the field behind the Church would be safe. The alternative of no plan means that all the planning applications would be decided only by the County Council with no protection for our village and Cornwall Council is looking for places to build 47,500 new homes, what would be the decision of the Council Planning Committee?

Development of a Neighbourhood Plan will involve a lot of work, done by volunteers, though there is funding available to support costs that incurred in the development process so it must be clear that there is a defined benefit from the Plan before starting.  The realistic scenario above justifies the effort and it is the opinion of CPRE Cornwall that the work is well worthwhile.

There are additional advantages to developing the plan, it can include requirements for the aesthetic design of future developments in the locations to ensure they fit in with existing housing, requirements for playing areas as well as other community facilities.

CPRE Cornwall can give guidance and support councils and Community Committees to support the development of the Neighbourhood Plans and guide you through the information that is available through CPRE and other web based recourses.

One excellent web resource is uploads/2012/04/Roadmap-worksheets-map-May-13.pdf