by Ed Dade
Posted on Aug. 6, 2019
Neighbourhood Plans provide a bespoke planning framework for the local area. No two plans are alike, although many have similar characteristics and address common themes.
This post provides a short summary of those Neighbourhood Plans which successfully passed referendum in July 2019, highlighting the elements which make each plan locally specific and unique.
The purpose of this post is to celebrate the achievement of those communities in successfully preparing their Neighbourhood Plans, and to share the interesting ideas and policies for the benefit of others who are currently writing their plans. Links to the Neighbourhood Plans are provided throughout the post.
The parish of Berkswell faces some interesting planning issues. The parish is located in the Green Belt, limiting opportunities for development in much of the parish, while other areas are earmarked for strategic-scale housing development by the area's Local Plan. In addition, the parish will be traversed by the HS2 rail line.
Despite these constraints, the Berkswell Neighbourhood Plan (BwNP) puts its mark on new development by requiring proposals to satisfy a range of design principles set out in criteria-based policies.
In response to a specific local planning issue regarding the conversion of agricultural buildings, the BwNP sets out criteria for the design and materials used in such developments.
A policy 'improving accessibility for all' requires development proposals, including HS2, to improve existing cycle and pedestrian footway networks.
The Neighbourhood Area to which the Bosbury and Catley Neighbourhood Plan (BCNP) is rural and lies adjacent to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). A clear priority of the BCNP's policies is to ensure new development conserves local character.
Interspersed between the BCNP's policies are relevant results from community consultation. This clearly illustrates that the policy directly reflects the views of the community.
Burscough is a small town in West Lancashire facing strategic growth of more than 500 dwellings and 10ha of employment land, identified by the area's Local Plan.
The Burscough Parish Neighbourhood Plan (BPNP) addresses the challenge of strategic development by emphasising the important role new development plays in delivering new infrastructure. The BPNP identifies water infrastructure and drainage as a key priority, due to local flooding issues.
The BPNP requires new development to make environmental improvements to enhance the quality and appearance of main transport corridors and routes. Important green spaces are protected through designation as Local Green Spaces, and also using a bespoke 'neighbourhood green space' designation.
The Castle Cary & Ansford Neighbourhood Plan (CCANP) is a collaboration between Castle Cary Town Council and Ansford Parish Council, and was prepared by a working group of local people.A main aim of the CCANP is to ensure all new development respects the special character of the market town of Castle Cary and the parish of Ansford., requiring developments to be designed to the highest standards. The CCANP sets out a number of design principles, addressing a range of issues. Notably, the CCANP seeks to reduce the 'environmental footprint of buildings by requiring development proposals to consider the "impact of sunlight, wind, views and privacy... For example, developments should be appropriately orientated to maximise the use of solar gain and light and minimise exposure to prevailing weather."
The Dogmersfield Neighbourhood Plan (DNP) includes the historic village of Dogmersfield and its wider, rural parish. The DNP defines a settlement boundary around the village and stipulates the types and forms of development which are acceptable within the boundary. Detailed policies protect the character of the Conservation Area.
The DNP identifies important local views into and within the Conservation Area, resisting development which obstructs or harm these views.
A 'Dark Skies' policy requires all development proposals to demonstrate that the scheme will prevent light pollution.
Fillongley village is located within a large, rural parish. The village is surrounded by Green Belt, meaning opportunities for development are very limited.
Consultation feedback from younger members of the community for "a train line circling the village and a runway able to accommodate the Airbus A380" are, sadly, unlikely to be compatible with national planning policies for development in the Green Belt!
The Fillongley Neighbourhood Plan's (FNP) policies set out requirements for new development to ensure the design of new buildings protects the character and setting of the village, conservation area and listed buildings. Starter and retirement homes are particularly encouraged.
The FNP requires new development to protect and promote biodiversity. This is achieved by requiring proposals to consider the 'Habitat Biodiversity Audit' and to support 'wildlife corridors' which connect habitats, as set out on a 'Biodiversity Inter-connectivity Map'.
Godalming is a market town with a large population of around 22,000 residents. It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that the Godalming and Farncombe Neighbourhood Plan (GFNP) is a very comprehensive and detailed plan.
Within the parish are a number of communities with their own distinct identity, including Farncombe. The GFNP defines character areas and sets a policy to conserve and enhance character and design, thereby retaining this local distinctiveness.
Notably, the GFNP tackles current issues affecting high streets and the town centre. Alternative temporary uses in vacant shops are encouraged, for example for cultural, creative or leisure activities. The GFNP promotes new development in the town centre, ensuring this development is high quality by setting criteria for the design of shopfronts and impacts on the streetscene.
The GFNP recognises the needs of small businesses, lending support to small-scale office developments.
Dealing with the health impacts of development is an important but challenging issue in planning. The GFNP takes on air pollution in its "Healthy Air" policy, which requires all proposals to assess their impacts on air quality.
What is perhaps most striking about the Goring Neighbourhood Plan (GNP) is its layout and formatting. It is a bold, colourful document, in landscape orientation. Text is arranged in columns and interspersed with text boxes, photos, maps and diagrams. Different sections are assigned a different colour header. This effective use of graphic design provides a document which is accessible and easy to navigate, whilst also being comprehensive and detailed.
A colourful table at the back of the document is a useful addition, clearly explaining how the GNP's policies and actions contribute to achieving the plan's objectives.
Located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the GNP takes on the challenge of allocating sites for housing. Policies set out detailed criteria for the development of each site, to ensure new development is high quality, mitigates its effects on the landscape, supports biodiversity and manages flood risk.
The GNP addresses a range of housing needs for different sectors of the community. Specialist provision for the elderly is encouraged. A proportion of market housing and all affordable homes are required to meet the "M4(2)" accessibility standard, meaning homes will be accessible to those who are disabled or with limited mobility.
In justifying why Goring needs a plan, the GNP states "To be in charge of our own destiny" - a fantastic slogan for neighbourhood planning.
A similarly well-formatted document, the Hampton Bishop Neighbourhood Plan (HBNP) covers a rural Herefordshire parish, home to just 170 households and limited services and facilities.
Hampton Bishop is highly vulnerable to flooding. The village is located in close proximity to three rivers, the Wye, the Lugg and the Frome, with only limited areas in Flood Zone 1 (lowest risk from flooding). The HBNP's primary policy directs development to areas of lowest risk from flooding, requiring measures to reduce the overall risk from flooding. This is followed by a policy setting design requirements to ensure new development is both resilient and resistant to flooding. A further policy requires new development to be designed to reduce surface water run-off.
The HBNP doesn't just focus on the main village, but also addresses the impacts of development at the edge of the parish, located in the fringe of the adjoining city of Hereford. The policy seeks to ensure that such development does not adversely impact on the rural and historic character of the landscape.
The Harvington Neighbourhood Plan (HNP) covers the village of Harvington, home to approximately 1,750 residents, and its surrounding parish.
The HNP's 'Green Infrastructure' policy directs development toward brownfield sites and to infill plots, before allowing land used for agriculture, horticulture or for orchards is released for development. This 'sequential' approach is quite uncommon.
The same policy offers protection for veteran trees and ancient hedgerows, and other trees and hedges of local importance identified by the plan, including some hedgerows and tree belts which serve as a windbreak.
Accompanying this is a unique and fascinating community project to catalogue and preserve the genetic diversity of fruit trees in the parishes orchards.
The HNP allocates an area of land to enable the expansion of the first school and nursery school.
Proposals for tourism and holiday accommodation such as camping and caravan sites are encouraged. The HNP takes a flexible approach, in principle allowing such developments in any location in the parish subject to the site meeting certain criteria, such as providing good access and not resulting in adverse visual impact or harm to the character of the area.
To address parking issues in certain parts of the parish, the HNP seek to retain off-road parking. In addition, the HNP sets out generous standards for parking and cycle storage, requiring one car parking space per bedroom. The HNP supports a shift to more sustainable modes of travel, requiring new developments to provide electric vehicle charging points and identifying routes to be safeguarded as cycleways.
The HNP allocates a site for the development of 35 dwellings and community uses. The HNP stipulates the types of new homes which should be provided in the parish, requiring 10% of new homes to be bungalows, and 10% to be two-bedroom starter homes.
Renewable energy technologies are encouraged, notably solar farms and installations which utilise the River Avon as an energy source, such as water-source heat-exchangers or water turbines. All major developments required to examine potential for renewable heating from local geothermal or river sources.
The Pebworth Parish Neighbourhood Plan (PPNP) identifies a site allocation for housing development. The PPNP steering group took a democratic approach to selecting sites, directly involving the wider community in the selection of sites.
The steering group assessed a number of potential sites and arrived at a shortlist of four site options. These options were consulted upon, with a site options survey delivered to every person on the electoral register in the parish. The community voted for their preferred option, and the favoured site has been carried forward into the PPNP.
The PPNP identifies key views into and out of the village to the wider countryside. The location of the views are clearly illustrated on a map, and are protected from harm by a criteria-based policy.
The PPNP's 'Active Travel and Biodiversity' policy combines the issues of countryside access with green infrastructure. The policy supports the dual purposes that public rights of way and bridleways provide in enabling people to access the countryside by walking, cycling and horse-riding, and their benefits to flora and fauna in providing 'green corridors' between habitats.
Much of the Penistone Neighbourhood Plan (PNP) is devoted to conserving the area's heritage and character, key views, open spaces and heritage assets.
There is a clear link between the PNP's policies and the evidence which has informed them, with much of this body of evidence appended to the PNP.
The neighbourhood planning group undertook assessments of open spaces, heritage character, heritage assets and key views. It is clear that this extensive evidence has directly informed the preparation of the plan's policies - meaning assets and features which may not have previously been protected, will now be conserved for future generations.
Notably, this includes the designation of Local Green Spaces and 'non-designated heritage assets' - historic buildings and structures which are locally important but are not Listed Buildings.
The Moulton Neighbourhood Plan (MNP) boldly takes on the issue of climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Through its Sustainable Development policy, the MNP encourages new development to use sustainable construction techniques, be oriented to maximise solar gain and exploit opportunities to incorporate renewable energy techniques - overall striving for 'zero-carbon' standard.
The Ropley Parish is unusual in its built form and character. It is a historic, rural parish, with homes and other buildings scattered widely across the parish, or forming small clusters or hamlets.
The Ropley Neighbourhood Plan (RNP) seeks to conserve this unique character by retaining this openness through a range of policies.
The parish has an attractive landscape and enjoys views to the South Downs National Park. The RNP protects such views by identifying 'Key Vistas' and extensive 'Areas of Significant Visual Prominence'.
The RNP identifies further areas as 'Local Nature Conservation Networks', requiring development in such locations to provide sufficient information and evidence to enable planners to assess the impacts of the development on nature.
One particularly unique feature is the parish's 'Sunken Lanes' - narrow country lanes which lay lower than the banks and verges. A photographic example shows surrounding vegetation forming a complete arc over the lane. The RNP provides protection to these features, which might otherwise be unprotected.
There is a clear relationship between the RNP and the Local Plan for the area. The Local Plan includes several site allocations, providing 68 dwellings. The RNP sets out criteria-based policies to guide and inform the development of these sites.
Salcombe parish lies wholly within the South Devon AONB, and is located on a coastal plateau adjacent to an estuary, forming a unique landscape setting. Within the parish are numerous wildlife sites of varying significance, from local to international importance.
In response to its unique environment, the Salcombe Neighbourhood Plan (SNP), sets out policies to ensure new development does not adversely impact on the AONB and estuary by satisfying a range of criteria. In addition, numerous key views are identified for protection. The SNP promotes biodiversity by requiring new development to support green infrastructure in the parish.
The parish includes two distinct settlements, Salcombe and Baston. An area of separation is defined to prevent 'coalescence', i.e. to prevent new development from causing the settlements to merge together.
Affordability and availability of housing are key issues in Salcombe. The SNP encourages the development of affordable and community-led homes.
The issue of 'second homes' is particularly prevalent in Salcombe. The SNP includes a policy requiring the development of new market housing to be principal residences and not second homes.
The South Milton Neighbourhood Plan (SMNP) seeks to protect the special qualities of the South Devon AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).The SMNP achieves this through conserving the landscape and key views, protecting green lanes, avoiding light pollution and encouraging the use of planting in the early phases of development.South Milton is a coastal area. The SMNP seeks to preserve the unspoilt character, appearance and tranquility of the coastline.The SMNP allocates a development site for 18 new dwellings, and sets detailed criteria for the site's development, including a requirement to prioritise the allocation of affordable housing to households with a local connection to the parish. In addition, a third of new dwellings are required to be 'self build' plots, for people wishing to build their own home.Linked to the housing development site are additional site allocations for the development of a village hall and a children's play area, ensuring the SMNP will deliver clear community benefits.
Much of the parish is located in the High Weald AONB. A key priority of the Slaugham Neighbourhood Plan (SNP) is to ensure new development conserves and enhances the natural beauty the AONB.
The SNP supports the designation of Quiet Lanes and Public Rights of Way. Quiet Lanes are minor rural roads or networks of minor rural roads appropriate for shared use by walkers, cyclists, horse riders and other vehicles.
The SNP identifies specific routes for designation as Quiet Lanes by the Highways Authority.
Standish is a large village, north west of Wigan. The Standish area is not a parish. The Standish Neighbourhood Plan (SNP) is therefore fairly unusual as it has not been prepared by a town or parish council, but instead has been prepared by a Neighbourhood Forum, known as 'Standish Voice'.
Standish is experiencing significant change through the development of more than 1,800 new homes on sites identified by the Local Plan or with planning permission.
To ensure that new development is sustainable, the SNP requires proposals to be supported by transport, health, education, open space, community and utility infrastructure, and to avoid adverse impacts to the character and wellbeing of Standish.
Due to local concerns about housing growth, Standish Voice received support from Locality to assess the area's housing needs. Development proposals must ensure that the mix of house types and tenures reflects the housing needs of the area, as identified by the assessment.
The SNP includes a particularly innovative policy relating to the generation of renewable and low carbon energy. The development of solar farms of up to 5MW are supported. Such developments must include a community finance contribution and/or meet the needs of the local community.
The preface of the Standon Neighbourhood Plan (SNP) introduces Standon as a 'neighbourly parish'. This obligation to behave in a neighbourly manner extends to developers too. An invitation (or perhaps a mild threat) - developers, leave your legal challenges and loopholes at the door and the parishioners of Standon will treat you well!
The neighbourhood planning group took on the task of allocating sites to accommodate at least 150 dwellings, a target set by the Local Plan.
The group used the District Council's 'SHLAA' (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment' as its source of evidence from which to appraise and select sites. This was made all the more complicated by planning applications progressing through the system at the same time as the SNP, the sum total of which would far exceed the housing requirement. The SP successfully allocates several development sites to satisfy its housing needs.
The SNP's biodiversity policy is particularly interesting in that it identifies specific hedgerows for protection, assigning each a name and reference and clearly indicating each on a map. Such features would likely have formerly had little or no protection.
The Rural Exception Sites policy permits the development of affordable homes in locations which might otherwise be considered unsuitable for market housing development. Many neighbourhood and local plans include such a policy. However, what sets the SNP apart is that the policy sets out the criteria for allocating households to new affordable homes, prioritising those with a local or family connection to the parish.
The Housing Density policy requires all major developments to not exceed 25 dwellings per hectare. For most new developments, this would be considered quite low. The NPPF requires policies and decisions to make efficient use of land, which is interpreted by many as developing at higher densities. The justification for lower density in Standon area is to reflect average density of existing development, as set out in a supplementary report.
The Storrington, Sullington & Washington Neighbourhood Plan (SSWNP) is a joint effort from two parish councils.
As a further example of joint-working, a Memorandum of Understanding with Thakeham Parish Council on the northern boundary of the Area was agreed. This encouraged the respective parishes to “work together to ensure a consistent approach to planning over all the issues and areas”.
The SSWNP allocates six sites, expected to deliver at least 146 dwellings, thereby contributing to meeting a target of 1,500 homes to be met through neighbourhood plans in Horsham District. This approach creates a role for neighbourhood plans in meeting strategic development needs.
The SSWNP designates 19 Local Green Spaces - open spaces of local importance. In addition a 'Green Gap' is designated between Storrington and West Chiltington, to avoid the villages merging together as a result of new development.
The Uffington and Baulking Neighbourhood Plan (UBNP) was prepared jointly by Uffington Parish Council and Baulking Parish Meeting, and covers two parish areas.
A Landscape Capacity Assessment was commissioned to inform the preparation of the plan. The UBNP includes a map which divides the Neighbourhood Area depending on the sensitivity of its landscape. The UBNP requires development proposals falling within sensitive landscape zones to carry out a 'Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment', in accordance with specified guidelines. This approach requires developers to demonstrate, through evidence, that their proposal will not result in adverse visual impact and harm to the landscape.
The Wembdon Neighbourhood Plan (WNP) provides detailed planning policies, with extensive justification and effective use of maps and images. In addition, each policy is followed by a short, direct statement explaining what difference the policy will make. This is a rather neat way of clearly explaining the purpose and intent of each policy.
The WMP's design policy is locally-specific, requiring new development to utilise "...a mixed palette of locally distinctive external materials...", notably locally-sourced red sandstone. Proposals must also retain existing sandstone boundary walls, and where this is not possible, re-use the material on-site, thereby ensuring that new development does not erode the character of the area.
The WMP sets parking standards for new dwellings, increasing parking provision beyond the requirements set by the district council. The justification for increasing the amount of parking is to better reflect car ownership in Wembdon, which are relatively high given its rural location. In addition, of additional off-street car parking is likely to reduce congestion and obstructions caused by on-street parking. The policy forms part of a wider policy which also includes measures to encourage sustainable modes of travel such as walking and cycling.
The WNP contributes to the rural economy by favouring proposals for rural diversification, namely by supporting proposals for cafés or restaurants, farm shops, business start-up units, leisure and holiday accommodation.
The motivation for preparing the Wessington Neighbourhood Plan (WNP) was to response to the high rate of growth the parish was experiencing. Since 2011, planning permissions granted would see the number of homes in the village of Wessington increase by 42%.
The overriding purpose of the WNP is to "ensure that the rural, historic character of the village is not lost" as a result of development.
To achieve this, the WNP sets out design requirements for new development, including requiring major development proposals to satisfy the 'Building for Life 12' criteria, and identifying numerous local buildings are identified for special protection.
The WNP identifies the local landscape as the parish's 'greatest attribute', and sets out requirements to ensure that new development is sympathetic and does not result in visual intrusion.
The WNP explains how the plan's steering group considered a range of options when setting the 'Settlement Development Limit', balancing the needs for growth whilst protecting the sensitive landscape and open countryside.
The Wigmore Group Neighbourhood Plan (WGNP) applies to a collection of parishes. The area is rural with a small population, with just 334 dwellings in the parish of Wigmore, 35 in Leinthall Starkes parish, 26 in Elton parish and 18 in Pipe Aston parish.
The WGNP defines a settlement boundary around the villages of Wigmore and Leinthall Starkes, which enables small scale development and gives priority to the use of previously developed land and conversion of existing buildings.
Other policies conserve the landscape, key views and the built form of the villages. It is not just the daytime view of landscapes which are conserved, with dark skies protected from light pollution.
The WGNP provides protection to the natural environment by ensuring development proposals do not result in harm to water quality.
The Kington Area Neighbourhood Plan - a collaboration between three parish councils Kington Town, Kington Rural and Lower Harpton, was rejected at referendum. The referendum result was incredibly close with 49% in favour and 51% against.
The Herstmonceux Neighbourhood Plan has finally been made by Wealden District Council more than one year after it successfully passed referendum. The delay arose after additional work was required to ensure the plan would not result in harm to designated habitats, following a change in process as a result of a decision by the European Court of Justice.