Frequently asked questions and some answers

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At our meetings we have Q and A sessions as an opportunity for our members to clarify any points or queries.  We will place a number of useful FAQs here to help your understanding of the Plan.

The questions and answers below are taken from the Department of Local Communities and Central Government’s web site.

Relationship with national policy

Is the government proposing any major changes to policy e.g. on green belts?

The government has producing a new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This is a single document that will replace all existing topic-based national policy. No substantial changes to green belt policy  were envisaged but these have now been strengthened following initial consultation. However, the NPPF is very pro-growth and is clear that local housing issues need to be addressed.

Relationship with Bromsgrove District Plan

What will be in the new District Plan?

The existing Local Plan gives a steer on the issues to be addressed in the new District Plan, but the policy responses will need to be updated. The new plan will be reliant on data and population modelling which is still work in progress. Some issues are of strategic importance and will need to be contained within the District Plan (sometimes called the Local Plan), so the council and the neighbourhood groups need to work out how best to address them in neighbourhood plans.

How will the production of a Neighbourhood Plan relate to local authorities that are putting Local Plans in place?
The government wants local authorities to get up-to-date Local Plans in place as soon as possible and neighbourhood planning doesn’t alter that ambition. Where an up-to-date Local Plan isn’t in place, the community and the local authority should work together to produce complementary neighbourhood and local plans. In many cases local authorities will have an emerging Local Plan which can be informed by the neighbourhood planning process.
The relationship of neighbourhood and local plans is vital to the success of the reformed planning system. We are learning from the experience of the neighbourhood planning front-runners how important it is for communities to be truly engaged in local plan work where the strategic planning policies for the local area are established. We are keen for local people to take the opportunities to influence their Local Plan, as well as bring forward a Neighbourhood Plan for their immediate area.

How will recognised settlements be addressed?

The District emerging Plan will consider strategic housing issues and define the general approach to housing. The existing current Local Plan allows limited development in recognised settlements and defines their boundary. This approach may be maintained, however it might be more appropriate for neighbourhood plans to define the boundary. This is something the group should consider alongside the LA planning department.

Relationship with other areas

What happens on the borders?

Different areas need to talk to one another to make sure that neighbourhood plans do not contain incompatible proposals. The Localism Act includes a duty to cooperate with neighbouring authorities. In essence this is no different to the current situation at the borough’s borders, which operates more smoothly than might be imagined. The council and other local councils operate a “spheres of mutual interest” scheme to share information that is likely to be of interest outside their area; this could work with neighbourhood plans too.

Writing the plan

Will there be a Neighbourhood Plan template from the government or from the council?

No. That would defeat the purpose of it being a plan that addressed the specific needs of a neighbourhood. There will be ideas for what it could contain, but the actual contents, format and drafting will be up to the neighbourhood itself. We can learn from areas that are further advanced with plan-making, such as “Front-Runners”.

Will parishes be given whatever statutory guidance exists on writing plans?

Yes. The council will advise of legislative issues and requirements but would encourage a neighbourhood plan to not be too detailed.

Should the Neighbourhood Plans be written by people with an area focus or a topic focus? (e.g. “people from Hopwood” or “people who know about transport”)

It seems to work better if it’s written by people who know about and are interested in specific topics, so that they can bring their skill and experience to the plan. They do need knowledge of local areas as well, though. It may also be easier to resource a topic approach and attract volunteers to help.Thats why community involvement is essential in making our Neighbourhood Plan.

Can existing parish plans become NPs or be used as a template?

A parish plan is non-statutory and carries very little legal weight in decisions. In contrast a neighbourhood plan is part of the statutory development plan and carries significant weight in decisions. So the evidence requirements for a neighbourhood plan are much higher. An existing Parish Plan or Design Statement couldn’t become a neighbourhood plan in their current form unless they could be demonstrated that they had followed the statutory requirements for community engagement and were based on up to date information. Nevertheless, no plan starts from scratch and  existing parish plans would provide a useful starting points in terms of identifying local issues and concerns. This is an opportunity to re-endorse policies from a parish plan if they’re still fit for purpose. The general principle however is to take what we have from other documents including parish plans, and build them into a neighbourhood plan if appropriate.

Technical points

If a Neighbourhood Plan is judicially reviewed, who will pay the costs?

The legal responsibility is believed to be with the council as it’s our responsibility to check that the plan is legally compliant. More detail will emerge in time as  national legislation emerges.

How long are Neighbourhood Plans valid?

Subject to confirmation from the Localism Act, they are likely to be valid for 10 years but can be refreshed after 5 years if required.

Steering group

Who should be on the steering group?

Based on experience from elsewhere (Front-Runners), the initial steering group is likely to be self-selecting and will not initially consist of people knowledgeable on all areas. It will be necessary to look outside the group to bring on board people with specific skills and interests. Need to work hard to get the right people.

Q and A with Department of Communities & Local Government

What powers are being reserved? What is the remit of the Neighbourhood Plan?

Plan has to be in “general conformity” with National and District Plan policies and existing E U Legislation. Plan should be based on evidence and must weigh up aspirations vs. need.

The process doesn’t seem to be as ‘bottom-up’ as first thought?

The District Plan will likely take a broad-brush approach, and whilst it has to determine strategic housing numbers etc, the location of these and the design/ type etc can be determined in the Neighbourhood Plans. A community may decide to rely on policies in the District Plan if they are considered to meet the local needs.  This is a really exciting opportunity to shape the development that takes place. Steering groups would like guidance on what numbers are going to be ASAP.

Is Neighbourhood Planning just another fob-off?

No it will have weight when the Local Authority decides planning applications once it is adopted. It will influence the decisions on planning applications in Alvechurch Parish.

Is there going to be more money made available?

No, there are over 10,000 parishes nationwide, and any more money needs to be distributed accordingly. The Front Runner funding received should certainly help those fortunate to have been selected for the moment; the situation can be reassessed if and when this runs out.

How do the Steering Group gather the right evidence to help people make decisions?

Bromsgrove District Council will help, but we may well need surveys such as transport studies, and possibly get a Sustainability Appraisal (if needed )done professionally since developers are beginning to find holes in these at appeals. Aside from this, costs of consultation, printing, etc.will be kept tight by our recruitment and use  of local volunteers.

What role does a local authority have once the Neighbourhood Plan has been approved at a referendum?

A Neighbourhood Plan which has had a successful examination and has been approved by a majority of those voting on it in a local referendum must be approved by the local authority.

We expect that in the vast majority of cases, the examination of a Neighbourhood Plan will be light touch. The examination may be conducted by anyone who has the necessary skills and experience and is acceptable both to the local authority and the neighbourhood. The purpose of the examination is to ensure that the plan has been prepared in accordance with the law and is consistent with national policy and in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan.

How will the presumption in favour of sustainable development relate to our neighbourhood plan?

The presumption in favour of sustainable development is principally a means of ensuring that local plans are put together in a way which reflects an evidence-based assessment of the social, economic and environmental needs of an area.

Our planning reforms strengthen the role of plans (including neighbourhood plans and local plans) in decision-making. The presumption makes clear that planning applications which are in line with local and neighbourhood plans should normally be approved.

Department of Communities and Local Government asked everyone to make a contribution to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation due to be out in April 2012. This was likely to set out what are the main strategic issues that councils should plan for and  [This is now out and can be found on-line at the DCLG website] – http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/draftframework

Your questions not answered?  Why not contact us using the form below,                 Please insert your name and e-mail address, and we will reply to you ASAP!

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