As of Tuesday 03 June there were 1021 Neighbourhood Plans in various stages of progress. When we held our Planning Legislation update on May 01, attended by the RTPI, Locality and DCLG, among others, there were 1000. Increasingly, these Neighbourhood Plans involve heritage as their major focus. While Localism (muscular or otherwise) has its detractors, there can be no argument that communities are not now doing what was intended by this element of the Localism Act, and seizing recognized opportunities with both hands. Here at the HTF/ASHTAV partnership, we are doing our bit to enable this. Along with our much-anticipated (and almost full!) event on Neighbourhood Planning – how to do it with heritage, Dave Chetwyn, HTF Chair and Neighbourhood Planning Expert, writes for us below on how to put a plan together as a pre-cursor to, and a taster for, the event. Please do join us – but do book soon – this is proving very popular! Happy reading!
Neighbourhood Plans – What, Why, How
Why prepare a neighbourhood plan?
Neighbourhood plans represent a very significant commitment in terms of time and energy. There are also financial costs associated with things like community engagement, printing and sometimes professional fees. Preparing a neighbourhood plan involves taking tough and sometimes controversial decisions. Yet around 1,000 parish councils and neighbourhood forums have commenced work on preparing a neighbourhood plan for their local area. So what are the incentives that have led so many people to decide that neighbourhood planning is for them?
To begin answering this question, it is first necessary to clarify what a neighbourhood plan is and what it can and can’t do.
Neighbourhood plans may be prepared by parish councils or, where there is no parish council, neighbourhood forums. Neighbourhood forums must be comprised of at least 21 people that live, work or are elected members in the area.
A neighbourhood plan is concerned with town and country planning. It can out in place policies to shape and regulate new development or changes of use of land or buildings. Once a neighbourhood plan is made, it forms part of the statutory development plan for the area. That means that planning applications would be determined in accordance with the policies of the neighbourhood plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. This means that neighbourhood plans carry real weight.
Neighbourhood plans can consider a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues arising from the use and development of land. They can deal with issues like new housing, employment, urban design and heritage. It is for those preparing the plan to decide on the subjects it deals with. You could have a one issue, one policy plan, or it could deal with a wide range of issues.
Neighbourhood plans can also make site allocations for new development. This means that they can identify the sites where new development of different types can take place, and where it should not take place.
There are limitations to neighbourhood plans. They can’t deal with non-planning matters. Also, they must meet certain ‘basic conditions’ and these are tested through an independent examination.
What are the Basic Conditions?
The basic conditions require all neighbourhood plans to:
- Have regard to national policy and guidance
- Be in general conformity with strategic local policies
- Achieve sustainable development
- Be compatible with EU Obligations (environment, habitats) and human rights.
For national policy, the key documents to consider are the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG). Both can be downloaded through the DCLG web site. National policy emphasises the need for neighbourhood plans to be evidence based. This includes consideration of evidence under-pinning any emerging local plans.
The local planning authority should be contacted at an early stage to discuss which policies in the adopted local plan are considered to be strategic. The neighbourhood plan must conform generally to these policies, but may modify non-strategic policies.
The need to achieve sustainable development means that the plan must cater for growth, but without compromising the interests of future generations. Sustainable development is about achieving a balance between social, economic and environmental considerations. A practical example of how to build sustainability into a neighbourhood plan could be the inclusion of green travel policies to ensure that new housing developments are convenient for pedestrians, include cycle storage and easy access to public transport.
The need to be compatible with EU obligations may be addressed in various ways. A neighbourhood plan should be screened by the local planning authority to determine whether it needs Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA). An equalities impact assessment may be carried out to determine how the plan affects protected characteristics, such as ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
Unless a neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions, it will not be able to progress to the referendum stage.
What if we don’t prepare a neighbourhood plan?
If there is no neighbourhood plan, then planning applications will be considered against the local plan and national policy. Sites can be allocated through the local plan process alone. If the community is happy with the local plan, then preparing a neighbourhood plan may not be the best course of action.
Also, a neighbourhood plan is essentially a policy document. In some areas, especially where the economy is weak, it may be more effective for resources to be targeted at direct delivery, such as a community development project.
Designation of the Neighbourhood Area and Forum
The first formal stage in preparing a neighbourhood plan is to submit the proposed neighbourhood area to the local planning authority for designation. Where the plan is being led by a prospective neighbourhood forum, that too must be submitted to the local planning authority for designation.
In reality, there will need to have been quite a lot of preparatory work before the submission stage. This will include publicising the proposal to prepare a neighbourhood plan so that as many people as possible are aware of what it is and why one is being prepared. Local key stakeholders will need to be identified and invited to participate. Community engagement activities should commence at the earliest stage. This
is especially important where a plan is being led by a prospective neighbourhood forum, where there will need to be an inclusive process for putting together the forum and identifying the neighbourhood area.
Community Engagement and the Evidence Base
Once the neighbourhood area is designated (and the neighbourhood forum where necessary), the plan may proceed. The foundations of a good and viable plan are rigorous community and stakeholder engagement and a robust and proportionate evidence base. These will provide a good understanding of the area and its communities.
Although there is no statutory requirement for a neighbourhood plan to have stated aims or vision, these do provide a very good working discipline and ensure that the plan has a clear focus to the plan. Consideration of evidence and the outcome of community engagement activities should help to clarify key issues for the plan to address and from those key aims.
It will be necessary to sift out non-planning matters. The neighbourhood plan should focus on planning only. Other matters will have to be dealt with by other means, such as negotiations with public bodies or through the development and delivery of community projects.
Writing the Policies
The policies of the neighbourhood plan and site allocations, where undertaken, are the working part of the document. These will form the basis of decision making on future planning applications (together with the local plan and national policy).
Policies should be clear and unambiguous in their requirements. Vague statements like “new development should be well designed” will achieve little unless backed by clear and definite requirements. Care is required in terminology – for example in the use of the word ‘must’ rather than ‘should’.
Once a plan is written, it is useful to get it reviewed by an experienced practitioner. This will help to iron out any issues in terms of meeting the basic conditions and will also help to ensure that the policies will be effective.
Submitting the Neighbourhood Plan
Once a draft plan has been prepared, it has to be subjected to a 6-week statutory consultation. This includes consulting national bodies, such as the Environment Agency and English Heritage.
At the end of the 6-week consultation, all responses must be considered and, where considered necessary, the draft plan should be modified.
The plan is then ready for formal submission to the local planning authority. The plan and a map of the neighbourhood area must be submitted, together with two supporting statements. The first of these is the consultation statement, which must set out the responses to the 6-week consultation, together with explanations of what action was taken as a consequence. The second statement deals with the basic conditions. This provides the opportunity to explain to the independent examiner how the plan meets the basic conditions.
The local planning authority will publicise the plan for a 6-week period.
The Independent Examination
The independent examination will consider whether the neighbourhood plan proposal meets the basic conditions. It will also consider whether the voting area should be wider than the neighbourhood area. Usually, the independent examination will be conducted through written representations. However, there could also be a hearing, if the independent examiner considers it necessary.
The independent examiner may recommend that the plan proceed to referendum, that it be modified and then proceed to referendum or that it does not proceed to referendum. The independent examiner’s report is not binding. It is for the local planning authority to decide whether or not to proceed to referendum, with or without modifications. This decision is based on whether the plan meets the basic conditions – not consideration of the planning merits of the draft plan.
If the plan is found to meet the basic conditions, with or without modifications, then it will be the subject of a public referendum. There may be an additional business referendum for areas wholly or predominantly business in nature. If the neighbourhood plan proposal gains a majority ‘yes’ vote, then the local planning authority has to ‘make’ the plan. Once the plan is made, it forms part of the statutory development plan for the area.
What Happens Next?
Once made, a neighbourhood plan, together with the local plan, provides a framework against which development proposals are considered. A good neighbourhood plan will provide a positive vision for the development of the area, making sure that the needs of all sections of the community are met as far as possible.
Often the process of preparing the neighbourhood plan is as useful as the plan itself. It brings people and organisations together and starts dialogues that may otherwise not happen. Some neighbourhood plan bodies have also started to consider developing community projects.
It is still early days, but the 2-3 years will be crucial in establishing whether neighbourhood plans can meet people’s expectations.
Dave Chetwyn is Managing Director of Urban Vision Enterprise CIC, Chair of the Historic Towns Forum and Planning Adviser to Locality.
Extra borrowing powers for councils to build new homes
The Government has announced an extra £300 million borrowing allowance for councils to use to invest in new affordable housing over 2 years from 2015. The Government is also changing the rules about sale of surplus land to allow it to be released for new housing.
Seven new commissioners for English Heritage
The Culture Secretary has announced the appointment of seven new commissioners for English Heritage: Sally Balcombe, Alex Balfour, Victoria Barnsley, Prof. Martin Daunton, Prof. Michael Fulford, Victoria Harley and Michael Morrison.
English Heritage Angel awards
English Heritage has invited nominations for its 2014 Angel awards. The awards are made to individuals who have made a special contribution to saving, restoring or conserving a historic building, monument or site. There are four categories:
- The best rescue or repair of a historic place of worship
- The best rescue of a historic industrial building or site
- The best craftsmanship employed by a trainee or apprentice on a heritage rescue; and
- The best rescue of any other heritage site.
Nominations must be submitted by 22 June.
Infrastructure planning refinements
The Department for Communities and Local Government has announced moves to refine the nationally important infrastructure planning regime put in place by the Planning Act 2008. The new measures follow consultation last winter and include;
- The Planning Inspectorate publishing a prospectus setting out the services they can offer during the pre- application period
- The planning Inspectorate and officials from DCLG to issue improved guidance on matters such as preliminary environmental information and changes in land ownership
- Moves to improve and clarify the pre examination and examination process.
European Council recognises value of cultural heritage
The European Council has passed a resolution which recognises that cultural heritage, be it tangible, intangible or digital, is a strategic resource in which modern Europe should invest in order to make its social, economic and environmental development more sustainable. The Council has called for more investment in cultural heritage and encourages better coordination of policies and actions between states
2013 record year for tourism
Overseas visitors spent a record £21.01 billion in the U.K. in 2013, a 12.7% increase on the previous year. The number of visitors was up by 5.6% at 32.8 million. The full details are included in the Travel Trends 2013; Key findings document published by the Office of National Statistics.
New Chief Executive of CADW
Kate Clark formerly of English Heritage and HLF has been appointed Chief Executive of CADW, the Welsh Government’s historic Environment service. She will succeed Marylin Lewis, the current chief executive who will retire in August.
More than 1000 Assets of Community Value
More than 1000 places have been listed as Places of Community Value during the past year. The Localism gave people the right to nominate buildings or land; if accepted then the local community has the right to bid or buy them before they can be sold on the open market.
Cut the VAT Campaign
The cut the VAT Campaign has been extremely busy on the sector’s behalf, and the website is now fully updated – please do check to see all the activities and research that has been added, and to give your support.
Revised planning practice in force
The Department for Communities and local government has issued revised planning practice guidance in response to the review by Lord Taylor in 2012. Among other things the guidance:
- makes clear that councils need to consider strict tests for flood risks of new development;
- re-affirms green belt protection, noting that unmet housing need is unlikely to outweigh harm to the green belt and other harms to constitute very special circumstances; and
- states that local plans can pass the test of soundness when local authorities have been unable to identify land for growth for years 11 to 15 of the plan period
Heritage Alliance Heroes awards
The Heritage Alliance Heroes awards 2014 are now open for applications. The scheme is intended to celebrate the outstanding contribution to society made by heritage volunteers in England. The award scheme is open to all Alliance member organisations and their members. Applications should be submitted by 15th September.
Events and Seminars
Neighbourhood Planning – how to do it with heritage 13 August, Oxford
There are now around 1,000 Neighbourhood Plans being prepared around the country and heritage is a significant issue for many of them. HTF Chair, Dave Chetwyn, will facilitate a practical workshop to show how to deal with heritage through the Neighbourhood Plan process. Dave is Managing Director of Urban Vision Enterprise, Planning Advisor to Locality, author of the Locality Neighbourhood Planning Roadmap Guide and he has acted as a neighborhood plan independent examiner.
Dave will be joined by speakers from DCLG and local case studies now putting their plans into practice.
Historic Built Environment Seminars Oxford 2014 – October 14 – FREE EVENT
The New Towns Agenda – Masterplanning for new towns, garden cities and urban extensions in the historic environment – theory, practice and examples
The Historic Towns Forum, the Association of Small Historic Towns and Villages, and Kellogg College are pleased to announce the inaugural series of Historic Built Environment Seminars. Beginning in 2014, these seminars will address current and contentious topics within the historic built environment, fostering academic dialogue, professional practice, and providing an arena in which the public, private, civic and academic sectors can engage in heated and healthy debate about all aspects of the topic in hand. The seminar series will be accompanied by published proceedings each following year.
The first of these took place on 25 February, and was a full house, and a resounding success, featuring David Lock, of David Lock Associates (and ex- Milton Keynes Development Corporation Chief Planner) on New Towns and Masterplanning. This was followed on June 03 by Elain Harwood from English Heritage, on The building of the English New Towns, and was a riveting and lively canter through the history of the New towns movement.
Seminars begin with wine and nibbles at 7pm, followed by the seminar and discussion at 7.30pm. The event will finish at 9pm. The remaining seminars are as follows:
14 October Peter Larkham, Birmingham City University, on Conserving the post-Second World War reconstruction: a contentious idea
These are free events. Register here or register online
Please do join us!
Forthcoming Historic Towns Events – October - tbc
We are currently planning a Retail and Tourism in Historic Towns event in Wyre, for October, with support from VisitEngland, English Heritage, Wyre Council and Revive & Thrive. Ask for details here
Annual Conference – November – Chester - tbc
Our Annual Conference this year will be held in Chester in November, and will focus on Growth Issues in Historic Towns. Ask for details here
Mind the Gap: Addressing the Tourism Divide - 10 June - Liverpool
This year the tourism industry will have a significant presence at the International Festival for Business (IFB) 2014. We would be delighted if you were to join us for VisitEngland’s free Regional Growth Conference, Mind the Gap – Addressing the Tourism Divide, on June 10th 2014 at the Museum of Liverpool.
The conference will focus on the opportunities and challenges facing the regional growth of tourism around the country. Headline speakers include: The Lord Shipley OBE, Deputy Chair, Regional Growth Fund Independent Advisory Panel, Helen Grant MP, Tourism Minister and Evan Davis, Economist, Journalist & BBC presenter. With London booming, where does that leave the rest of England? Experts from destinations, transport and the tourism industry will debate how we can work together to address the widening gap between the capital and the rest of England.
For more information and to register for this event see link below
Register for Mind the Gap - Addressing the Tourism Divide.
National Civic Day – 21 June
The fourth National Civic day will be held on 21st June. The Day is organised by Civic Voice, which is the national charity for the civic movement in England. It is an opportunity for town and parish councils, community groups and businesses to showcase what is of value in their local area.
London 24 June 2014 - RTPI Planning Convention 2014
Meeting the challenge: how will planners shape the future?
Book your place now for The Planning Convention 2014 and be inspired as they celebrate the RTPI's centenary and 100 years of professional planning. Taking place on Tuesday 24th June in Central Hall
Westminster, London, the Planning Convention 2014 will ask what the big challenges on the horizon are that will shape the next 50 years?
They will address major issues including how to deliver quality as well as quantity in housing, how we build healthier communities and how to overcome the real constraints upon economic growth, such as infrastructure and market failure. Expert practitioners will discuss what these challenges will mean for the quality of life for communities in different parts of the UK.
With a packed and flexible programme, and outstanding opportunities for networking and debate, these critical topics will feature across workshop and plenary sessions with speakers of national and international renown. Join the convention debate about how to make planning fit for purpose in shaping the future of our communities.
Book your place now!
Heritage Alliance fourth heritage debate
The Heritage Alliance fourth heritage debate will be held on 24th June at Austin Court, Birmingham. The debate will explore philanthropy in a competitive market. The debate will coincide with the Alliance’s new capacity building programme, ‘Giving to Heritage’, and is intended to develop, clarify and promote the case for philanthropy as a significant source of revenue for our heritage.
Tickets are available from email@example.com
Framing the Future – International Festival for Business – 27 June – University of Liverpool
With the widening gap in economic performance between London and other parts of the UK and Europe very much in the news, this event aims to bring the planning, business, and higher education communities together to explore how they can collaborate to set a positive context for city and regional innovation. Based in the University of Liverpool’s Foresight Centre, the programme of keynote speakers and workshops will enable delegates to learn about best practice related to Neighbourhood Planning for Business, Knowledge & Innovation Quarters and Transformational Infrastructure.
Heritage Open Days 20th anniversary
Heritage Open Days will be held throughout the country from Thursday 11th to Sunday 14th September. This will be the 20th year of the open days when thousands of buildings, sites and gardens which do not otherwise have public access are opened for free.
York 11-13 July 2014
Centre for Conservation Studies and ICOMOS conference
The Centre for Conservation Studies and ICOMOS-UK conference for 2014, titled ‘Engaging Conservation’ will be held in York on 11th-13th July. Proposals for conference papers have been invited on all aspects of engaging conservation - with communities, participation, skills and capacity.
Giving to Heritage
The Heritage Alliance’s ‘Giving to Heritage’ programme of training for fundraisers in the heritage sector commences in June. The training is available for any member of staff, volunteer, committee member or trustee, or Heritage Open Day organiser from a heritage or community group with responsibility to develop or deliver fund raising.
First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that the Church of England and Catholic cathedrals in England can now apply to the new fund for urgent repair work. The £20m fund was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the budget statement in March.
Government Review of Business Rates
The Government has launched a discussion paper on the administration of the business rate system and is seeking views from businesses and local authorities. The review will focus on 5 elements of the system: how property is valued; how often it is valued; how business rates bills are set; how the rates are collected; and how information about businesses and ratepayers is used. Responses are to be submitted by 6th June.
Civic Voice manifesto consultation
Civic Voice have invited comments from its members on the next stage in the development of its manifesto. The manifesto will be part of Civic Voice’s strategy to continue influencing the Government agenda affecting towns, cities and villages.
Reducing street clutter
The Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting on plans to allow councils freedom to cut the number of road markings and signs. The Department is also holding 9 events across Great Britain to explain the proposed changes. This closes on 12 June.
End of government support for solar farms
The Government has issued a consultation document on its proposals for renewable energy including the end of financial support for large scale solar power schemes from 1st April 2015.
Betting shops to require planning consent
The Government intends to introduce new measures for change of use of premises to betting shops to require planning consent. A consultation on this and other proposed changes will take place later this summer.
Publications and Toolkits
Planning Practice Guidance published online
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched the final ‘alpha’ version of the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) online. This is accompanied by a list of previous planning practice guidance documents that are superseded by the guidance.
Loss of local authority conservation staffing
A new report by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), supported by English Heritage, shows a continued decline in local authority conservation staffing with a reduction in 4% in 2012, part of a ‘devastating 33% cut since 2006’.
VAT on housing renovation and repair
An independent research report by Experian suggests that a reduction of VAT on housing renovation and repair from 20% to 5% could boost the UK economy by more than £15billion from 2015 to 2020. It could also create more than 95,000 jobs and save 240,000 tonnes of CO2 from thousands of homes. The report is backed by more than 60 charities, trade associations, business groups and financial institutions that are united in calling on all three main political parties to commit to the reduction in their 2015 election
manifestos. Read more
TCPA - New Towns Act 2015?
The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) has published a document showing how a new generation of garden cities could be developed as part of the solution to the need for new housing. The document is intended to encourage the political parties to commit to a programme of new garden cities in the run up to the general election in 2015.
South East homes shortfall
Savills have published a report which suggests that there will be a shortfall of at least 160,000 homes across London, east, south east and south west England over the next five years. The forecast is based on a comparison of the latest locally planned targets and the needs predictions made by the Town and Country Planning Association.
Love local landmarks toolkit
The Love Local Landscapes toolkit has been issued by the Hackney Society to help councils, heritage groups, amenity societies and local groups to use volunteers to review, revise and expand local lists of heritage assets.
English Heritage Conservation Bulletin 72
English Heritage has issued a new conservation bulletin on housing. A free download is available from the EH website.
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