Essential reading for Neighbourhood Planners

by Ed Dade

Posted on Jan. 3, 2019

Through my site I have attempted to explain the neighbourhood planning process, and provide regular blog posts on the latest issues affecting neighbourhood planning. But where can you go to find out more?


In this article I attempt to summarise where you should go for the most useful information and guidance, and where you can find funding and support for writing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Locality Toolkits and Guidance

Locality administer the government's current programme of support for neighbourhood planning groups, and Locality's site should be your first port of call when writing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Locality has produced an excellent series of 'toolkits & guidance' on a range of issues to assist the preparation of neighbourhood plans. It is difficult to understate how valuable Locality's guides are for budding neighbourhood planners. Be sure you don't miss:

  • The Neighbourhood Plans Roadmap 2018 by Dave Chetwyn MA MRTPI IHBC FInstLM is the quintessential guide to the neighbourhood plan process and should be your companion throughout your journey.
  • Writing Planning Policies by Tony Burton, which provides a comprehensive explanation of what neighbourhood plans can and can't do. It explains the difference between good and bad policies, with real examples from actual neighbourhood plans. It even explains the vocabulary and syntax you should use in your policies. Writing policies can be daunting, but this guide will make the task considerably more manageable.
  • How to consider the environment in Neighbourhood plans, prepared by the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Historic England and Natural England. The guide explains the roles of those organisations, and provides guidance on assessing a range of environmental issues.

National policy and guidance

The government's national planning policies for England are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The revised NPPF was initially published in July 2018 and was further updated in February 2019, following a technical consultation. The NPPF version published in February 2019 wholly replaces the previous versions published in 2012 and 2018.

If you are currently drafting a Neighbourhood Plan it is really important that any references to the NPPF are to the version published in February 2019. 

Neighbourhood Plans submitted before the 24 January 2019 are examined against the NPPF 2012. Plans submitted after this date will be examined against the latest version.

The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) explains how national policies should be applied and interpreted. The NPPG's section on neighbourhood planning is fairly clear, so even those without experience of the planning system will likely understand much of it.

Crucially, the NPPG sets out the basic conditions which all Neighbourhood Plans must meet.

The NPPG is updated periodically, and therefore can change. It is a good idea to subscribe to the NPPG website to ensure you are notified of any updates.

Duty to support

Local authorities have a duty to support neighbourhood planning groups in their area. You should contact your local district / borough council or unitary authority at an early stage of preparing your plan to discuss the support you may need.

It is essential that you familiarise yourself with the Local Plan for your area, as this will help you to identify issues and define the scope of your Neighbourhood Plan.

Other organisations

Many organisations offer guidance and resources for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) is part of the Local Government Association. PAS's website is well worth a visit to explore the range of guides and tools offered. You can even post a question on the PAS discussion forum.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) through Planning Aid England (PAE), the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) through its ACRE Network, and Historic England, all offer support and guidance for preparing neighbourhood plans.

Grant funding

In addition to offering written resources, Locality offer grant funding and technical support to Neighbourhood Planning groups. All groups undertaking a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order are eligible to apply for a basic grant of up to £9,000. Subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria, groups can apply for up to an additional £8,000 grant funding and direct professional advice and support.

To find out more, visit Locality's Grant Funding page.

Planning consultants 

Some planning consultancies offer specialist support to neighbourhood planning groups. Many Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Forums have recruited consultants to write plans, or to undertake a specific piece of work - such as carrying out research. You could approach other neighbourhood planning groups for advice on consultants who are available in your area, or search the RTPI's directory of planning consultants.

Keep up to date

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) publish regular bulletins on neighbourhood planning through its Notes on Neighbourhood Planning newsletter.

Troy Planning + Design is a consultancy offering neighbourhood planning services across the country. Their quarterly newsletters provide updates on neighbourhood planning.

Learn from others - case studies

Neighbourhood planning has been around for some time now. There will likely be parish councils and groups in your area who will be willing to share their experiences with you. Alternatively, check the Locality Champions Map to find a person with expert knowledge in your area.

Locality has published a number of case studies, provide examples of how Neighbourhood Plans  have addressed specific issues.

In the early days of planning, the government promoted neighbourhood planning through its various waves of  'front runner' neighbourhood planning projects. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) documented the experiences and challenges encountered by some of those early-adopters of neighbourhood planning in its report The rural frontrunners: research and case studies.


Many organisations hold conventions and workshop events about neighbourhood planning, which you should be able to find from a web search.

In addition, the various social media platforms provide information on neighbourhood planning. Many different groups and organisations post on Twitter using the hashtag #neighbourhoodplanning.

Books and Journals

Academics from the University of Reading have recently published a book titled Neighbourhood Planning in Practice, Parker, G., Salter, K. and Wargent, M. (2019), which is aimed at neighbourhood planning. This is the only published book on the subject which I am aware of, and sounds like a fascinating read.

If you wish to delve into academic analysis of neighbourhood planning, the University of Reading has produced numerous papers and reports, which can be requested or downloaded from its website.

I hope this provides a useful summary of some of the key resources available for those preparing neighbourhood plans. I will try to review this page regularly to ensure it is up-to-date. Please let me know if I have missed any important resources - also, get in touch if you are unable to find information you are looking for and I will try and point you in the right direction.

Last updated: 21 February 2019

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