Saxmundham Neighbourhood Plan

Neighbourhood plans – a planner’s eye view

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 6:16 pm

A summary by Hilary Hanslip, planning officer, Suffolk Coastal District Council

Neighbourhood plans are land use plans usually prepared for an individual town/parish administrative area by the relevant town or parish council. The right to prepare a neighbourhood plan was introduced under the Localism Act 2011. Once ‘made’ the policies in the plan carry full legal weight in the determination of planning applications. Separate Regulations apply to the preparation of neighbourhood plans – these include independent examination and local referendum.

Neighbourhood plans do not operate in isolation, but provide the opportunity to add local policy detail to strategic policies set out in the Local Plan prepared by the District Council. Strategic policies set out the broad scale and distribution for development across the wider area – the district or beyond over a 15 year time frame.

Both the Local Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan are expected to have regard to additional policy guidance which is provided at the national level, via the government’s National Planning Policy Framework and Planning Practice Guidance. They must also respect other EU obligations, for example in relation to national designations such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or sites identified as being of international importance for their nature conservation interest.

In all cases, there is a need to balance the social, economic and environmental impacts of development, with the aim of creating places which meet the needs of the local community and create attractive places to live, work and visit. These development plans and the policies they contain are the starting point for the determination of planning applications for that area.

The preparation of a neighbourhood plan is a right, but not a requirement. A neighbourhood plan can provide for more, but not less, development than is proposed for that area through the Local Plan. The decision on whether to undertake a neighbourhood plan will depend on the individual community and the land use planning issues it faces.

Neighbourhood plans are however very versatile and dependent on community circumstance; they can contain policies relating to a single issue such as design, through to a fully complex plan containing housing, employment and other allocations.

No two neighbourhood plans will be the same, but much can be learnt or gained by looking at neighbourhood plans across the country that have completed their statutory process.