Writing the plan

by Ed Dade

Before you begin writing the plan, you should have undertaken early engagement with local people and collected evidence on the planning issues you will address through your plan.

Finding your 'niche'

It can be tricky to figure out what your plan can do and should do. 
Your plan must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan for the area. This means your plan must be broadly aligned with the Local Plan's strategic policies, but it does not need to be identical to those policies. There is no requirement to be in general conformity with non-strategic policies. Your district council will be able to tell you which policies are 'strategic'.

There is no point in simply duplicating what the Local Plan says. Where your Neighbourhood Plan attempts to address the same issues as the Local Plan, it should go above and beyond the Local Plan.

Your Neighbourhood Plan will be used when determining planning applications. It must therefore deal with planning issues. It cannot directly deal with non-planning issues - for example, litter, dog mess, or speeding traffic. Many examiners will allow 'community projects' to be included within a Neighbourhood Plan where they are clearly distinguished from the actual planning policies.

Your Neighbourhood Plan cannot include policies on 'excluded development'. For example, it cannot include policies for the working of minerals or the disposal of waste.

Your policies should not impose requirements on developments which are unnecessary, unreasonable, or so costly that it would affect the viability of the scheme.

A policy in a neighbourhood plan should be clear and unambiguous. It should be drafted with sufficient clarity that a decision maker can apply it consistently and with confidence when determining planning applications.

It should be concise, precise and supported by appropriate evidence. However, often the most effective policies are those which allow flexibility and are not overly-prescriptive.

It should be distinct to reflect and respond to the unique characteristics and planning context of the specific neighbourhood area for which it has been prepared.

Your Neighbourhood Plan can include policies to inform and guide what new development should be like and where it should be located. Your Neighbourhood Plan can (and probably should) allocate sites for development. See my blog post about the presumption in favour of sustainable development for more info.

It can protect the character and identity of the area, and locally important open spaces, buildings, services and facilities. It can bring about improvements to the local area and deliver new facilities.

Policy writing can be challenging. It will likely take time and perseverance to create good policies. I will provide more detail on policy-writing in future blog posts. Look out for updates on the posts page.

On-going engagement

The process of writing the plan should be inclusive and open. You should ensure that the wider community:

  • is kept fully informed of what is being proposed
  • is able to make their views known throughout the process
  • has opportunities to be actively involved in shaping the emerging neighbourhood plan
  • is made aware of how their views have informed the draft neighbourhood plan

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