What is neighbourhood planning?

What is Neighbourhood Planning?

Neighbourhood Planning is a way for communities to take a proactive approach to deciding the future of the places where they live and work. It is not a legal requirement but a right, which communities can use to determine the development and use of land and to make other improvements to their neighbourhood, including the development of homes, shops, offices, infrastructure and their design. This can be done through a Neighbourhood Plan, a Neighbourhood Development Order or a Community Right to Build Order, all of which follow similar processes.

The Neighbourhood Plan

The Neighbourhood Plan can:

  • propose more development than the Local Plan
  • identify the most suitable sites for development
  • help to determine what type and design of development should take place

The Neighbourhood Plan cannot:

  • propose less growth than in the Local Plan
  • prevent any development from ever taking place in an area
  • be prepared without community input and support
  • be in conflict with local, national or EU policies

Why undertake a Neighbourhood Plan?

A Neighbourhood Plan helps set out a community's vision for their area over ten, fifteen, twenty years. Unlike a Parish Plan, once agreed the Neighbourhood Plan has the same legal status as the Local Plan so, decisions on planning applications must take the Neighbourhood Plan into consideration. Communities can put in place planning policies that will help deliver that vision or grant planning permission for the development they want to see. 

Who and what is involved?

The parish council initiates the process and works with the community to develop their proposals. The consent of local people must be secured through a referendum before the plan can be passed. As the Local Planning Authority, South Cambridgeshire District Council, supports the parish through the neighbourhood planning process, a summary of which follows:

1. Designating a Neighbourhood Area

  • A parish council/s who is thinking of preparing a neighbourhood plan must decide what area their plan will cover.  This ‘neighbourhood area’ must be designated by the local planning authority (SCDC)
  • The parish council/s applies to SCDC to have its proposed Neighbourhood Area designated. This is done by completing the SCDC application form.
  • If the application is for the whole of a parish and is ‘valid’ SCDC will designate the area.
  • If the neighbourhood area is for anything other than the whole of a parish SCDC must carry out consultation of at least 4 weeks on the proposed Neighbourhood Area.  Comments received are considered by SCDC and, if appropriate, the area is designated.

2. Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan

  • Parish council/s prepares the draft Neighbourhood Plan with the support of SCDC who will provide assistance and advice. 
  • Parish council/s carries out a 6 week pre-submission consultation on their draft Neighbourhood Plan.
  • Parish council/s considers consultation responses and where appropriate amends plan, if appropriate.
  • Parish council/s submits the Neighbourhood Plan with supporting documents to SCDC.  SCDC check for legal compliance.
  • If compliant, SCDC carries out community engagement for a minimum of 6 weeks.

3. Examination of Neighbourhood Plan

  • An independent planning inspector is employed by SCDC to carry out an examination on the submitted Neighbourhood Plan. The examiner will check that the plan meets a number of ‘basic conditions’ which are set out in  the National Planning Policy Guidance (concerning such matters as consistency with national planning policy, sustainable development, and conformity to Local Development Plan strategic policies etc.). 
  • The examiners report will be sent to SCDC who must publish it on their website.
  • SCDC considers the report and its recommendations.  SCDC decide whether to amend the plan to take account of the changes suggested by the examiner.
  • SCDC must decide whether the plan meets all of the basic conditions before it can submit the Neighbourhood Plan to a local referendum.

4. Referendum and Neighbourhood Plan Made

  • Referendum undertaken by SCDC and results declared. 
  • If supported by simple majority of those voting, and compatible with EU obligations and Convention rights, the Neighbourhood Plan is 'made' (adopted) by the Local Planning Authority (SCDC).

Getting Started

Our Neighbourhood Planning Toolkit has been designed to help local communities decide whether they want to get involved in creating a neighbourhood plan and if they do, how to go about preparing a neighbourhood plan.

Support for Neighbourhood Planning is available from Development Officers and Planning Policy Officers at South Cambridgeshire District Council: call 01954 713183 or email neighbourhood.planning@scambs.gov.uk. We are happy to meet with you to discuss the planning options open to you and to explore the implications - advantages and challenges - of undertaking a Neighbourhood Plan.

Communities wishing to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan should have a look at the Frequently Asked Questions about Designating a Neighbourhood Area document we have produced. Please contact us before you complete the designating a neighbourhood area application form so that we can ensure we fulfil our duty to support you. Consultation is required within the area you propose to designate prior to your application being made. Consider seeking the views of people who live and work in the area, landowners and businesses.

Applications to designate a Neighbourhood Area should be made using the Council's Application form for area designation.

Once a Neighbourhood Area has been designated, we advise you to set up a Steering Group for writing your plan. Also, you might like to consider signing up to a Service Level Agreement so that we as the local planning authority and you as the body leading on the Neighbourhood Plan each know what's expected of each other.

Our information, guidance and funding page provides links to useful information.