1. What is a neighbourhood plan?
A neighbourhood plan is a framework and policies to guide the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area, and is developed by a neighbourhood forum (see 2 below). The plan forms part of the council’s statutory development plan for the area. It may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals to improve the area or to provide new facilities, or allocate key sites for specific kinds of development. It may deal with a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues (such as housing, employment, heritage and transport) or it may focus on just one or two issues. Plans are subject to an independent examination and referendum before they into force. See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/faqs/#sthash.SDB105RF.dpuf


2. What is a neighbourhood forum?
A neighbourhood forum (in our case, the East Shoreditch Neighbourhood Planning Forum) organises the plan-making process. The legislation dictates that the forum must have an open membership and comprise at least 21 people that live or work, or are elected councillors in the area (see 3 below). They should be representative and drawn from both different places in the area and different sections of the community. The forum must have a written constitution and a formal purpose, which must include promotion and improvement of the area’s social, economic and environmental well-being. Finally, a forum has to apply for designation (ie, approval) by the local planning authority.


3. What is a neighbourhood area?
The first formal step in neighbourhood planning is the designation of a neighbourhood area, which must be approved by forum members. The area may be large or small and could contain, for instance, local shops, housing estates, parks, institutions or a combination of these. The local planning authority must ensure that the proposed area is coherent, consistent and appropriate in planning terms before they can approve it. See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/faqs/#sthash.SDB105RF.dpuf


4. What is an evidence base?
This describes data and information about the proposed area, which must be included in the plan application. It can include social and economic data about the local population and economy, assessments of housing need, flood risk data, records on protected buildings and sites and other relevant information. See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/faqs/#sthash.SDB105RF.dpuf


5. Who is consulted about a plan?
There is a legal requirement for consultation and publicity at different stages of the neighbourhood plan-making process. But it’s good practice to engage local people from the beginning of the process – those who live and work in the area, shoppers, businesses, landowners, developers and others involved in or with an interest in the area. See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/faqs/page/2/#sthash.ZF5lj66A.dpuf


6. How much does it cost to produce a neighbourhood plan?
This very much depends on our ambitions for the plan’s scope and evidence base, the nature of public engagement and the standard and style of production. Many have been produced with budgets of around £10,000-£20,000.
See more at: http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/faqs/page/2/#sthash.ZF5lj66A.dpuf


7. Who organises and pays for the referendum?
The independent examination of the proposed neighbourhood plan and referendum is organised by the local authority. The neighbourhood forum must agree the appointment of an independent examiner. The local planning authority has to pay the cost of the referendum and the independent examiner.


8. What happens after the referendum?
Neighbourhood plans are brought into force by the local planning authority providing the majority vote in favour. Once a neighbourhood plan is force, it forms part of the statutory development plan for the neighbourhood area in question. Consequently, decisions on whether to grant planning permission will need to be made in accordance with the neighbourhood plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.


9. Who will ensure that the neighbourhood plans are viable and deliverable?
Neighbourhood plans need to be aspirational but they also need to be realistic and deliverable. Ultimately this is down to the neighbourhood forum, but it’s not in anybody's interest to prepare a plan that can’t be delivered.


10. Does the neighbourhood plan have to conform to the Local Plan?

Councils produce a document called a Local Plan, to shape the growth and development of neigbourhoods within their borough. The plans focus on strategic issues, such as providing for population growth, not the sort of detail that a Neighbourhood Plan can cover.   

Although the Localism Act requires Neighbourhood Plans not to conflict with the Local Plan’s strategic aims, Neighbourhood Plans can go into much more detail. For example, they can include policies on where development should go, how development is designed or, using a neighbourhood development order, permit certain types of development without the need for a subsequent planning applications.

Unlike many of the parish, village or town plans produced in the past, a Neighbourhood Plan is part of the formal planning system. Planning decisions will therefore be made in the context of the Neighbourhood Plan, alongside the Council’s own plans.


11. How does ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ affect a neighbourhood plan?
This is principally intended to ensure that local plans are put together in a way that reflects an evidence-based assessment of the social, economic and environmental needs of an area.

The new planning reforms aim to strengthen the role of plans (including neighbourhood plans) in decision-making. This presumption makes clear that planning applications consistent with both local and neighbourhood plans should normally be approved.

You might have more questions that are not covered here. If so, post them below and we’ll try to answer them. The Plan as a whole is an ongoing process, and this section will equally respond to need.

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