Neighbourhood planning – a quick explainer

UK communities now have the power to set local development priorities through neighbourhood planning - known as a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP). This affects communities including businesses, industries and infrastructure.  And, it has powerful implications for sustainability and local engagement. It is a key part of the Government’s Localism Act 2011 (see below). 

What is neighbourhood planning?
The NDP process gives communities the right to shape development in their local area. Generally, a local town parish or council will lead on the planning. Neighbourhood planning gives communities ownership over the local developments they want. It provides a powerful set of tools for local people. It aims to ensure they get the right kind of development, suiting both them and the wider region.

How does neighbourhood planning work?
This document describes the process in detail.

Key points:
a) Neighbourhood planning is led not by the local authority, but by the community.
b) 'Qualifying bodies,' which include parish and town councils and neighbourhood forums, can prepare a plan.
c) Residents and businesses and landowners can get involved with the process and join the qualifying body. 
d) Though the local authority does not lead the process, it must agree the boundary of the plan area. It must also agree to any neighbourhood forum, which must have at least 21 members.

What is a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP)?
NDPs set out a vision for an area or site and plan out policies for the use and development of land.

What is covered by the NDP?
NDPs might cover where new shops, offices or homes should go, or what green spaces should be protected. The plan needs to conform with national policies and the policies in the authority’s local plan. NDPs exist to guide and assist development, rather than to prevent it.

What is the process of undertaking the NDP? 
This guide takes you through the process step by step. In brief, it involves:

  1. People from the local community, the parish council, or the neighbourhood forum join together.
  2. The qualifying body then creates the neighbourhood plan.
  3. The body submits the finished plan.

What is localism?
Localism is transfer of power, authority and resources from central government to local government, agencies and people. These devolve to and empower communities.

What is the legal background to localism and neighbourhood planning? 
The Localism Act 2011 introduced new powers for people to make neighbourhood plans and neighbourhood planning orders, with reduced interference from central government.
These new powers are in addition to existing opportunities for community involvement, which are already part of the planning system.

Useful links