Statement of Community Involvement for Planning Draft Consultation - January 2020

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4. Neighbourhood Plans or Neighbourhood Development Orders

4.1. Neighbourhood plans are community led documents, prepared by Parish Councils or a Neighbourhood Planning Forum. The District Council is committed to supporting local communities preparing neighbourhood plans and they form an important part of how the local community can be engaged in the planning system.

4.2. The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (as amended) set out the statutory requirements for the preparation of neighbourhood plans. Consultation during the early stages of neighbourhood plan preparation is undertaken by the Parish Council or the neighbourhood forum and is not covered by the requirements of this Statement of Community Involvement. However, the SCI might still contain guidance which is useful to groups preparing neighbourhood plans.

4.3. When a neighbourhood plan is "made" it becomes part of the statutory development plan for the District, this means that there are a number of legal requirements that the neighbourhood plan must meet. These are known as the "Basic Conditions". A neighbourhood plan must:

  • have regard to national planning policy;
  • be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the saved Local Plan;
  • contribute to the achievement of sustainable development;
  • be compatible with environmental obligations; and
  • be compatible with human rights requirements.

4.4. The table below sets out the key steps for neighbourhood planning and also outlines the level of support that can be expected from the District Council. Further information can be found in Appendix 1 or on the Council's website: https://www.north-herts.gov.uk/home/planning/planning-policy/neighbourhood-planning

Table 3 : Neighbourhood Plans – Stages of Preparation

Stage of Preparation

Commentary

Designation of a neighbourhood planning area

A Town or Parish Council needs to apply for a neighbourhood planning area to be designated. Where an application is received to designate the whole parish area, the District Council must designate the whole area.

At this stage, the Parish Council or the qualifying body neighbourhood will be expected to provide a formal request to designate the neighbourhood planning area and a map which shows the extent of the neighbourhood planning area.

Where consultation on designating a neighbourhood planning area is required, the District Council will consult statutory consultees and those people and organisations who have expressed an interest in that neighbourhood planning area. The District Council will advertise the application through its website and social media and will ask the relevant qualifying body to assist in publicising the consultation through its own local mechanisms, for example through a parish newsletter or local website.

Preparation of the first draft neighbourhood plan

During this stage of plan preparation, the District Council has a duty to support the preparation of neighbourhood plans. This could include advice on:

possible themes and topics for your neighbourhood plan;

useful evidence for your neighbourhood planning policies;

the legal requirements that have to be met;

ways to consult the local community;

providing maps where appropriate; and

providing advice on policy writing.

This list is not exhaustive; however assistance will be limited to resources available at any given time. If you have a detailed project plan in place, it will be easier to identify when you might need assistance from the District Council.

At this stage in the neighbourhood planning process, the Strategic Planning Team will offer 30 hours of support for each neighbourhood planning group. Our GIS team can also provide some limited help with digital mapping. Beyond this allowance, further assistance can be provided but will be charged at a rate of £30 per hour to cover the Council's costs.

Whilst the District Council has a duty to support neighbourhood planning, this does not extend to financial assistance. There are other sources of funding which might be available to neighbourhood planning groups. Further information is available through Locality: https://locality.org.uk/

Pre-submission consultation on the neighbourhood plan

Once a draft plan has been prepared it will need to be consulted on for six weeks. This consultation is carried out by the Parish Council or the Neighbourhood Forum. The consultation can be used to make any changes to the neighbourhood plan as a result of comments from the public in advance of the submitting the plan.

Whilst consultation at this stage should be focussed in the local community, the District Council can help Parish Councils and qualifying bodies with the contact details for statutory consultees. Parish Councils and qualifying bodies are encouraged to consult with the wider community which might include landowners, businesses and developers.

Submission of the neighbourhood plan to NHDC

Once the neighbourhood plan has been prepared and consulted on for six weeks, the plan will be submitted to NHDC to publicise and consult on for six weeks.

The District Council will ensure that all of the documents submitted are correct and will arrange for consultation to take place. In most cases, delegated authority will be sought to start the consultation but there are exceptions to this where the neighbourhood planning area includes two or more electoral wards. In these circumstances, the consultation will be referred to Cabinet as a key decision. It maybe that the consultation will be undertaken with other local planning consultations to ensure the efficient use of resources.

The District Council will publicise the consultation through its website, news releases and through social media. Emails and letters will be sent to statutory consultees, any organisation referred to in the consultation statement, organisations in the local area and anyone who has "opted-in" to be notified of consultations for that particular neighbourhood planning area.

The District Council will work in collaboration with the qualifying body to encourage the use of local media sources (e.g newsletters, social media pages) to publicise the consultation.

Independent examination of a neighbourhood plan

The District Council will source an independent examiner at the end of the consultation period, once all of the representations have been confirmed to request the details of a suitable and available examiner to undertake the examination of the plan. A decision to appoint an examiner will be made in collaboration with the Parish Council.

The District Council will ensure that the independent examiner receives all of the relevant documentation for the examination.

It is normal for neighbourhood plan examinations to be conducted by written representations, however, if the examiner decides that an exploratory meeting or a hearing session is necessary, the District Council will make the appropriate arrangements in consultation with the Qualifying Body and the examiner.

Receipt of Examiner's report

The examiner will prepare a report which will recommend that the neighbourhood plan proceeds to a referendum with or without further modifications and that the referendum area is to be extended beyond the designated neighbourhood planning area.

Referendum

The District Council will make the necessary arrangements for a neighbourhood plan referendum where the neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions.

Making the neighbourhood plan

Once there has been a successful referendum, the neighbourhood plan will become part of the statutory development plan for the District and will be used in determining planning applications.


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