An Overview of Neighbourhood Planning

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Neighbourhood planning was introduced in the Localism Act of 2011. It is an important and powerful means of giving local communities statutory powers to shape how their communities develop.

Basically, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the local area covered by the neighbourhood plan– in our case all of Wellow Parish. Local planning authorities and planning inspectors considering planning applications or appeals must make their decisions in accordance with the policies in the neighbourhood plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
  • Written by the local community for the local community by residents of the area who understand it needs and cherish its character, rather than by the Local Planning Authority.
  • A powerful means of ensuring the community gets the right types of development, in the right place.
  • Evidence base which provides the evidence on which the plan is built

Why does Wellow need a Neighbourhood Plan?

Pressure for more building land and development in the Parish – like many parts of the country the Parish is under continuous pressure to find land for development, particularly housing development. We are going to have to accept that some further development is going to take place. It is going on currently, albeit at a small scale. The amount of land left undeveloped within the designated settlement areas, West Wellow, School Road and East Wellow is very limited and such development as is taking place is mainly infilling existing gardens or replacing existing dwellings. There is always pressure to release other land for development.

Changing land use – land use outside the settlement areas has changed considerably in the last few decades with the decline of agriculture and its replacement by horticulture, leisure amenities (fishing and golf for example), equestrianism, solar energy generation and educational facilities. This has led to marked changes to the character of the rural areas.

Character of the Parish – Wellow is an attractive rural Parish with a mix of woodland and open country away from the settled areas. It lies partially within the New Forest National Park and has important environmental sites such as Canada Common which are of national and international importance.  The Parish also has a considerable historical heritage with a fine thirteenth-century church and many listed buildings scattered throughout the Parish.

Why people want to live in Wellow – it is a convenient place to live with good road communications to the motorway, Southampton, Winchester and Salisbury. The old market town of Romsey is nearby providing many local facilities.  People value the rural environment, the sense of community and value its location in relation to key centres for employment and amenities.

Evolution and change – the Parish must evolve and adapt to local and national changes as well as continually meeting the needs of the Wellow community. It also must recognise the value that local businesses make to the economy of the Parish. Through a Neighbourhood Plan we, the local community, can have a say in how we think the Parish should evolve whilst ensuring that those things so valued and cherished by residents are not harmed or destroyed by too much, or inappropriate, development. New development must be sustainable and not be at the expense of the rich biodiversity and natural environment of the Parish.  

So isn’t this the role of the Parish Council?

Although Wellow Parish Council considers all planning applications relating to the Parish, they can only comment as a consultee, it is Test Valley Borough Council for areas north of the A36 and New Forest National Park south of the A36 that grant planning permission as the local planning authorities.

This situation is not unique to Wellow, it applies almost everywhere and often results in a feeling that the planning authorities are out of touch with local residents and their opinion on how their community should grow.

Once the Neighbourhood Plan is implemented or “made” it becomes part of the Borough’s and National Park’s statutory local development plans. The team developing the Neighbourhood Plan comes under a Steering Committee which reports to the Parish Council.

Who pays for the creation of the Plan?

Neighbourhood plans are largely produced by members of the community on a voluntary basis, they may have some help from consultants where expert knowledge and technical support is required and from the local planning authority.

Grants for consultancy services and expenses such as the hire of venues, publicity material are available through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Wellow has applied for and received government grants to cover the cost of consultancy and miscellaneous expenses. It has also received support from the Parish Council and Test Valley District Council

When is the Neighbourhood Plan going to happen?

The area for the Wellow Neighbourhood Plan was designated June 2016 since then a dedicated team of Wellow residents has been working on the Plan.

Unfortunately, and inevitably, the COVID pandemic has slowed progress and curtailed community consultation. Notwithstanding this, we are getting to the stage where we will have a draft Plan by the end of this year.

How can I get involved?

We welcome participation in the Neighbourhood Plan – it is after all for the whole community. This can be by joining the team, feeding back comments on documents produced by the team and participating in public meetings.

To find out more please contact us