The need for a Neighbourhood Plan has been raised and discussed a number of times by the parish council over the last couple of years. We have created this document, from details provided by East Northants Council back in 2017, to understand what interest there is in the parish for a Plan.
After reading this document, if you are interested in being part of the Neighbourhood Planning Forum (committee) please let Ian Tadman know by email Ian.Tad@yahoo.com
For a good example of a nearby Neighbourhood plan and steps to create one, please look at the plan for Glapthorn
What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
The Government wants people to be able to influence decisions about new and modified buildings and facilities in their area.
To give people more control over the development of their local area, the Government are:
- giving communities the power to set the priorities for local development through neighbourhood planning
- requiring local planning authorities to draw up clear, up-to-date Local Plan that conforms with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), meets local development needs and reflects local people’s views of how they wish their area to develop
- giving councils the power to raise money to support local infrastructure through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)
- giving communities the right to receive and spend a proportion of CIL funds on the local facilities they want
- allowing for development plan documents (Local Plans and/ or Neighbourhood Plans) to set local development management policies; e.g. limiting inappropriate infill development on gardens (so-called ‘garden grabbing’)
A Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) establishes general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood, such as:
- where new homes and offices should be built
- what they should look like
Neighbourhood plans allow local people to secure the right type of development for their community, but these plans must recognise the needs of the wider area. In most cases the Government expects this will mean that Neighbourhood Plans will have to take into account the local council’s assessment of housing and other development needs in the area. The plan can be detailed or general, depending what local people want; i.e. local views and priorities. Unlike Local Plans (whose requirements are specified in the NPPF); for Neighbourhood Plans communities can pick and choose the issues to be covered.
Neighbourhood planning will be led by the Parish Council who will assist the community to form a Neighbourhood Planning Forum (committee). This should be independent of, but overseen by, the Parish Council.
Role of East Northamptonshire Council (ENC)
The ENC has a duty to support communities making their Neighbourhood Plan. For example, it will organise the independent examination of the Neighbourhood Development Plan.
ENC is also responsible for organising the neighbourhood planning referendum. The referendum ensures that the local community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood development plan comes into force in their area.
Is a Neighbourhood Plan right for Benefield?
It is noted that the idea of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan was first mooted around spring 2017. In considering whether a Neighbourhood Plan is appropriate, the Parish Council, and the community, should consider:
- What are the “real” concerns and priorities for the community – what does Benefield want as a village?
- What themes or topics might a Neighbourhood Plan for Benefield cover; e.g. are allocations for housing, employment or local green space proposed?
- Are there local bodies or individuals with sufficient knowledge/ resources to coordinate and engage with the community to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan (sit on the forum)?
- What mechanisms or other tools are available to achieve the desired outcomes?
What are the “real” concerns and priorities for the community – what does Benefield want as a village?
It remains for the community to consider what are its main concerns and priorities and to decide what it wants. This may be achieved by a meeting, but more usually through the development of a Community Plan (see below) or a simple ‘questionnaire’.
What other themes or topics might a Neighbourhood Plan for Benefield cover?
It remains a decision of Benefield Parish Council, together with the local community, to set out the issues, themes or topics that a Neighbourhood Plan for the village ought to address.
One major requirement for any Neighbourhood Plan is that it is in general conformity with the adopted Local Plan, and would not undermine its strategic priorities. The Local Plan consists of:
- Part 1 – North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy (JCS) 2011-2031, adopted July 2016 and
- Part 2 – Saved site specific policies from the Rural North, Oundle and Thrapston Plan (RNOTP), adopted July 2011.
The current Local Plan (i.e. JCS and RNOTP) runs until 2031. Current Local Plan policies that apply to Benefield are set out in the Parish policy index (https://www.east-northamptonshire.gov.uk/downloads/file/9615/adopted_development_plan_for_benefield_wef_140716pdf).
It must be borne in mind that Benefield is covered by an up to date Local Plan Part 1; i.e. one that has recently been adopted. However, the RNOTP (Part 2: site specific policies) only covers the Plan period to 2021. It should also be noted that several other Town/ Parish Councils are already at various stages in preparing Neighbourhood Plans, with a view to reviewing/ updating RNOTP policies at the local (i.e. non-strategic) level.
Neighbourhood planning is, potentially, a resource intensive process. It may be necessary to appoint appropriate consultants/ expertise in order to:
- Coordinate public consultation/ engagement events;
- Ensure that the emerging Neighbourhood Plan complies with Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)/ Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA)/ Human Rights legislation;
- Ensure draft policies are robust and meaningful.
The nature of any external support will be wholly dependent upon the scope (range of themes and topics) that the Neighbourhood Plan will cover; and local skills available. Funding is available (through Locality) to assist with the engagement of a consultant; a grant of £9000 is available through the Department for Communities and Local Government, “as of right”.
Other mechanisms or tools
Dependent upon the concerns and priorities of the village, it may be that other tools/ mechanisms are more appropriate and/ or less onerous than a Neighbourhood Plan. Consideration may be given to the following:
- Community Plans – It is recommended that the preparation of a Community Plan should represent the first stage in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. Many of the action points identified through a Community Plan may be addressed through alternative (i.e. non-planning) mechanisms to a Neighbourhood Plan (see Annex B);
- Village Design Statements – Detailed design guidance, linked to adopted development management policies within the Local Plan (in particular, JCS Policy 8 – Place Shaping Principles) – Pilton, Stoke Doyle and Wadenhoe Parish Council has chosen to take this approach, instead of Neighbourhood Planning;
- Rural housing protocol – “Delivering affordable rural housing on exception sites” – Specific non-statutory rural housing policy, relating to the delivery of rural exceptions housing schemes through JCS Policy 13 (e.g. Little Addington, Titchmarsh);
- Master planning – Benefield Parish includes part of the Deenethorpe Airfield (Tresham Garden Village) site; committed in principle by way of JCS Policy 14.
Overview and conclusions
This paper has been prepared to assist the Parish Council and the community to assess whether the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan for Benefield is an appropriate option.
Wherever possible, the Parish Council (as “responsible body” for the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan) is encouraged to actively engage with relevant experts to ensure that any Plan is robust and effective. It should also be noted that the following neighbouring Parishes are also in the process of preparing Neighbourhood Plans:
- Brigstock – 1st draft version Neighbourhood Plan published for consultation (Regulation 14, Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulation 2012, as amended);
- Deene & Deenethorpe – designated a Neighbourhood Area, but still at an early stage in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan;
- Glapthorn – 1st draft version Neighbourhood Plan published for consultation (Regulation 14);
- Oundle – designated a Neighbourhood Area with 1st draft Neighbourhood Plan anticipated to be published for consultation during autumn 2017.
This could have implications for Benefield. It may be useful to review the draft Brigstock and Glapthorn Plans, together with their supporting evidence base.
Finally, ENC advises that the preparation of a Community Plan (also known as a Parish Plan) should represent the initial (preliminary) stage in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. A Community Plan represents one of the best ways by which local priorities may be systematically and robustly identified. The preparation of a Community Plan as a start point/ initial “building block” is considered to be “best practice” and is a key foundation for a Neighbourhood Plan.