— What is neighbourhood planning?
— Why produce a neighbourhood plan?
— The process of producing a neighbourhood plan
— Support available to neighbourhood planning groups
— Introduction to Neighbourhood Planning workshops
— How to apply for neighbourhood area status
— Parish areas
— Unparished areas - designation of neighbourhood forums
What is neighbourhood planning?
Neighbourhood planning was introduced in the Localism Act in 2011 and gives communities the power to develop a shared vision and shape the development and growth of their local area.
Neighbourhood plans allow local residents to create a plan for new homes, shops, offices, services, facilities and infrastructure. The statutory process for producing a neighbourhood plan is outlined within the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (legislation.gov.uk).
A neighbourhood plan should reflect the views and meet the needs of the local community it has been prepared for, with carefully crafted policies within a well evidenced, formally adopted Plan which has been subject to consultation, examination, and public referendum.
Parish councils and neighbourhood forums can produce a neighbourhood plan. St Helens Borough Council is required to provide assistance and guidance to neighbourhood planning groups, and the council has statutory obligations to progress plans to examination and referendum once they have been submitted.
St Helens Borough Council has also appointed DAC Planning to provide free support and advice to any groups interested in producing a neighbourhood plan until September 2023. Contact us to discuss how to access support and advice to get started producing a neighbourhood plan.
Why produce a neighbourhood plan?
Neighbourhood plans give communities the opportunity to deliver a positive vision of the long-term development of their local area.
Once a neighbourhood plan is "made" (i.e. adopted following a successful referendum result), it becomes part of the development plan (along with the Local Plan and any other relevant documents), which planning applications for proposed new development within the area covered by the plan must be determined in accordance with, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This is enshrined in legislation. Neighbourhood plans can therefore have a real impact on the future of an area.
There are numerous benefits that good planning with community support can bring to your local area. Neighbourhood plans can:
- Identify and protect local green spaces.
- Protect the character and appearance of an area.
- Manage new development in an area.
- Recognise and protect local heritage assets.
- Promote good design in new development.
- Allocate land for new development.
- Outline future proposals for new infrastructure in an area, including open space, transport connections, schools, health facilities, and other community infrastructure.
- Contribute to achieving a vision and strategic priorities for your area.
Neighbourhood plans can't be used to propose less development or stop development that has already been permitted or identified through the St Helens Local Plan. However, neighbourhood plans can be a powerful tool for local people to ensure that they get future development which meets the needs of the local community.
The process of producing a neighbourhood plan
Producing a neighbourhood plan is a big commitment, but it should be an enjoyable and interesting process. The length of time taken to produce a neighbourhood plan can vary significantly. Every community is different, and therefore every neighbourhood plan is different. It is up to you and your community to decide how complex and detailed the neighbourhood plan will be. The length of time it takes to produce a plan will depend on:
- The skills available to the group.
- The cost and availability of resources and specialist consultants.
- The number and type of policies in the neighbourhood plan.
- The amount of evidence needed to justify the policies and support the production of the plan.
There are a number of key steps in producing a neighbourhood plan, which are set out within the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (legislation.gov.uk):
- Designation of neighbourhood area (and neighbourhood forum where required)
- Preparing a draft neighbourhood plan
Once your area is designated, you can begin the process of producing the neighbourhood plan. This can include:
- Gathering a baseline of information and evidence, which may include commissioning expert consultants.
- A community survey and other engagement, such as community workshops and events, websites and social media, meetings and newsletters.
- Using the baseline information and other information gathered to develop the plan's vision, objectives, and the themes to be addressed within the plan.
- Developing the policies and identifying projects.
- Public consultation
Once the draft plan is produced, it will need to be formally consulted on for a six-week period.
- Submitting the plan
Once your plan is ready to be submitted, we will require the following documentation to be sent to us:
- A copy of the Neighbourhood Plan;
- A map or statement identifying the area to which the proposed neighbourhood plan relates;
- A Basic Conditions Statement, which explains how the plan meets the Basic Conditions that a draft neighbourhood plan must meet if it is to proceed to referendum;
- An environmental assessment report, or a statement of the reasons why one is not required.
- The Consultation Statement report, outlining all of the engagement undertaken throughout the plan.
- Independent examination
At this stage, your hard work is done and the Plan is ready to be examined. We will appoint an independent examiner to assess whether your neighbourhood plan has met the Basic Conditions and other matters set out in paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended).
St Helens Borough Council will organise a referendum for people living in the Neighbourhood Area to vote on the plan. If more than 50% of the voter turnout supports the plan, the plan will be made.
Support available to neighbourhood planning groups
Neighbourhood planning may be a big commitment, but a wide range of support is available for you and your group.
DAC Planning are working with St Helens Borough Council to provide free general support on neighbourhood planning until September 2023. No matter what stage your group is at, we will be available to support you with:
- Designating a neighbourhood area and/or neighbourhood forum
- How to produce a neighbourhood plan
- Project management and assessing your skills and resources
- Consultation and engagement methods
- General neighbourhood planning advice and training
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to avail of this free support and find out how we can help you and your community.
St Helens Borough Council is required by Regulations to provide ongoing advice and assistance to groups preparing neighbourhood plans, and to take timely decisions at key stages in the process.
There is a lot of guidance on neighbourhood planning freely available online. Locality is an excellent resource with toolkits and guidance for a range of neighbourhood planning topics, including the general process, how to engage with your community, options for funding, and case studies.
Neighbourhood planning groups are able to apply for financial assistance through Locality, which includes general grant funding of up to £10,000, and further funding and technical support for groups with more complex issues to tackle.
The Planning Practice Guidance also provides dedicated information on neighbourhood planning, with helpful signposting to relevant Government legislation and regulations.
How to apply for neighbourhood area status
Applying for neighbourhood area designation is the first big step in starting a neighbourhood plan.
Applications for neighbourhood area designation must include the following:
- A map identifying the area you want designated as a neighbourhood area.
- A statement explaining why the area is considered appropriate to be designated as a neighbourhood area.
- A statement confirming that the organisation or body making the application is either a parish council or a neighbourhood forum (designated or capable of being designated).
You can provide this as a letter to us or use our template to input the information and send this to us.
After we receive your application, we will publish it for a six-week public consultation before providing a decision on whether to designate the proposed area in accordance with the Regulations. Once determined, the decision will be publicised on the website in accordance with the legislation. We would strongly advise contacting us before applying to ensure that the boundary is appropriate.
Although not always the case, for most parish councils the parish boundary provides an appropriate, 'ready-made' neighbourhood area. In this instance, the body producing the neighbourhood plan ("the qualifying body") will be the parish council.
A neighbourhood area application should be submitted prior to the production of a neighbourhood plan for all areas, including instances where the proposed neighbourhood area is congruous with the existing parish boundary. Please see the relevant Regulations for timescales on decision-making for your application.
Unparished areas - designation of neighbourhood forums
In areas where there is no parish council, organisations can submit an application to be the 'neighbourhood forum' for that area, to allow them to prepare a neighbourhood plan.
For a neighbourhood forum to produce a neighbourhood plan, a neighbourhood area must be designated, or an application must also be made for the designation of a neighbourhood area. You can apply for neighbourhood area designation and neighbourhood forum status at the same time.
See above for further details on neighbourhood area applications. We would strongly advise contacting us before applying to ensure that the boundary is appropriate.
We will require the following documentation and evidence:
- The name of the proposed neighbourhood forum
- A written constitution for the proposed neighbourhood forum (example of constitution)
- The name of the neighbourhood area to which the application relates and a map which identifies the area
- The contact details of at least one member of the proposed neighbourhood forum to be made public
- A statement which explains that the proposed neighbourhood forum has:
- Been established for the express purposes of promoting or improving the social, environmental or economic wellbeing of the area.
- Open membership arrangements for people who live, work or are locally elected members for the neighbourhood area.
- At least 21 members who are individuals.
Our Application for Neighbourhood Forum Status form contains the necessary information to complete the neighbourhood forum designation process. You can contact us for support in completing this, if needed.
For advice on meeting these requirements, Locality has produced a toolkit on establishing a neighbourhood forum.
Once we receive your application, it will be published for consultation on our website. Once determined, the decision will be publicised on the website in accordance with the Regulations regarding neighbourhood forums.
Neighbourhood planning contact details
St Helens Borough Council planning policy