How do you create a Neighbourhood Plan?
There are five main steps to creating and implementing a Neighbourhood Plan which are outlined below.
- Setting up and determining the area to be covered by the Plan
in our case it is all Wellow Parish so this includes West and East Wellow, Canada, Shootash and The Frenches and Embley Park.
- Community consultation and gathering of evidence
the whole point of a neighbourhood plan is that it is community led and reflects the views of the community.
This involves getting feedback from lots of people locally – residents, businesses, community groups, schools – to find out what’s important to them about where they live, what they’d like to improve and what their vision is for the local area.
This can be by talking to people, holding meetings and conducting surveys. In this way and from other sources – local and central government, government agencies, non-governmental agencies and commercial organisations we can begin to build the evidence that is needed to support and substantiate the neighbourhood plan.
- Writing the policies
using feedback and evidence, the next job is to write the planning policies that will make our community’s vision a reality. Policies should be written to give substance to the plan’s aims and vision and help local planning authorities make decisions on planning applications in the neighbourhood area.
These are specific to the area and need to be within the framework established by the local plans maintained by the relevant planning authorities – in our case Test Valley Borough Council and, for the area south of the A36, New Forest National Park.
Submitting the plan
once the draft neighbourhood plan is complete, it is submitted to the local planning authorities. They check that we have followed the correct procedures and that all required documents have been submitted. Then they arrange for an independent examiner to check that the plan meets the basic conditions. These conditions are the plan must:
- have regard to national policy
- contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
- be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the local area
- be compatible with EU obligations as transposed into English Law
Finally, if our plan passes these tests, the local authority will organise a public referendum (vote), so that everyone who lives in the neighbourhood area can decide whether they support it.
- Implementing the plan – if more than 50% of the voters are in favour of the plan, the local authorities must bring it into force and it will then form part of the statutory development plan for that area.
Any decisions about whether to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area in the future must be made by taking the neighbourhood plan into consideration.
How far have we got with the Plan?
The area for the Wellow Neighbourhood Plan was designated June 2016 and a Steering Committee established with terms of reference. Volunteers were called for a team and a number of subgroups established to progress the work.
We have largely completed the gathering of evidence and there was a considerable amount of community consultation early on, mainly in the form of a parish-wide questionnaire distributed to all households. Consultation has been difficult during the COVID pandemic but we are resuming the consultative process in Autumn.
Developing the Evidence Base – we have developed an extensive evidence base using local sources (Parish records and local knowledge from members of the community), the local planning authorities (Test Valley Borough Council and the New Forest National Park), Hampshire County Council (Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre), government agencies (Environment Agency, Historic England, Natural England, ONS, Ordnance Survey) and aerial imagery.
Those documents that have been released can be found on the Evidence Base page
Vision and objectives – based on an analysis of the results of the parish-wide questionnaire we developed a vision of what Wellow should be like in 2033, 15 years from the date of the survey. We identified key themes or topics of concern to the community and framed some key objectives that needed to be met by the Neighbourhood Plan.
These key objectives are: conserving and enhancing biodiversity – the rural character and natural landscape of the Parish; meeting the housing needs whilst endeavouring to maintain a sustainable level of amenities and facilities for residents; having appropriate development in sustainable locations; having a balance of house types and sizes reflecting the local need and improving the built environment.
Drafting of policies – building on the vision and key objectives, a draft set of policies have been developed these policies cover: sustainable development, housing, the countryside and natural environment, flooding and drainage, built environment, community, local business and employment and transport and highways. The key policies are the subject of a consultation this Autumn.
What is still to be done?
Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) – evidence has been submitted to the local planning authorities (Test Valley Brought Council and New Forest National Park) for a screening by them of the need for a Strategic Environmental Assessment.
More consultation with the community – on the draft policies.
Final drafting of the Plan – finalisation of the policies and drafting of the plan for submission to the local planning authorities. The plan is for this to take place in early 2022.