For starters, here are answers to general questions. As we get asked more questions, we'll add the answers to this list. If your question isn't answered here, please email us at: email@example.com
What is a Neighbourhood Plan? (Short Answer)
It is a new kind of planning document designed to allow local people to play an active part in planning their area. It can guide the development and conservation of the village. It can, for example, also identify proposals for:
- improving areas
- providing new facilities
- sites for new development
- protecting sites of environmental or historic quality
When complete, it forms part of the statutory development plan for the area, meaning Chelmsford City Council and planning inspectors take it into account when considering planning applications.
Community involvement is a major part of developing a neighbourhood plan and a plan must be approved in a local referendum before it can be used.
Why does Broomfield need a Neighbourhood Plan?
In 2016, the future of Broomfield as a separate village was under threat. A huge development was proposed to the west of the village. The Parish Council concluded that, over time, this would lead to the village being subsumed within ‘Greater Chelmsford’.
Thanks to a successful campaign by the Parish Council, this threat was significantly reduced. However, it made councillors even more aware that our local community needs a strong voice about where development takes place and what form it takes. Having a neighbourhood plan is not about stopping development, but it is about enabling the community to guide the process.
As well as giving us more control over our future, a neighbourhood plan is an opportunity to agree on what facilities are needed and how we might get them. Parishes with an agreed neighbourhood plan in place also get a bigger share of any development money (Community Infrastructure Levy), which helps to get much-needed new facilities.
What is a Neighbourhood Plan? (Long Answer)
A neighbourhood plan is a document produced by a local community to say how they want their local area or neighbourhood to develop in the future. The idea was introduced through the Localism Act 2011 to give local people more say. Government guidance states: ‘Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings look like and what infrastructure should be provided…’
Most planning documents are drawn up by planning authorities, in our case Chelmsford City Council. They will consult with local communities when they produce these local plans, but the initiative comes from above. By contrast, a neighbourhood plan starts with the local community in the parish or neighbourhood that it will affect. As well as local people being consulted about the neighbourhood plan while it is being prepared, they also get a vote on the final version. It can only be agreed (or ‘made’) if more than half of local voters support it.
In a parish like Broomfield, the parish council takes the lead and will normally set up a working group of parish councillors and residents to do the work. A huge amount of work is involved in researching data, consulting local people, commissioning surveys and professional studies as well as eventually drafting a plan to present to the parish council.
A neighbourhood plan is not just about coming up with a list of popular ideas. Like a local plan, a neighbourhood plan must be based on evidence. It must also be in general conformity with the main policies of the local plan - it cannot simply override them. So, for instance, in Broomfield the Neighbourhood Plan cannot stop the ‘North of Broomfield’ housing development, as this is a strategic policy within the Chelmsford Local Plan, although it can help to shape the development.
A neighbourhood plan must go through several stages of consultation. Like a local plan, it must also be considered or ‘examined’ by an independent planning inspector who can suggest or require changes to be made before the final version is put to a referendum. However, once it has been through all these stages successfully, the neighbourhood plan forms part of the legal planning framework for the parish or neighbourhood and all planning applications will be decided by reference to it.
So, a neighbourhood plan is different from other community-led plans because it has legal weight in planning and land use. Other community-led plans such as parish plans can set out what the local community would like to happen (or not happen) but cannot enforce it, as they are only advisory.
That said, neighbourhood plans can include community aspirations or actions as well, but they are not part of the legally binding planning policies that form the core of a neighbourhood plan. They are useful because they help to set targets or aims for the parish council and others to follow.