Neighbourhood Plans – The Statutory Process

The Statutory Process


What is the statutory process

to prepare a neighbourhood development plan?


Preparing the plan


The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 set out the statutory process an organisation must follow when preparing a neighbourhood development plan.

These can be summarised as follows:


The Five Stages

•             Defining the Neighbourhood Area

•             Preparing the plan

•             Independent Check

•             Community Referendum

•             Legal Force


Stage 1. Defining the Neighbourhood Area


Submit a neighbourhood area application to the District Council.

This must include:

1.      A map identifying the proposed boundary of the neighbourhood area

2.      A statement explaining why it is considered an appropriate neighbourhood area

3.      A statement that the organisation making the application is a relevant body.

4.      The District Council publicises the application for six weeks and invites comments.

5.      The District Council will then determine the application.

6.      If the District Council considers that the area is wholly or predominantly business in nature it should be designated as a business area.

Stage 2. Preparing the plan

•      If approved, the town or parish council or forum then starts preparing the plan. They must engage the community and build an evidence base to justify the eventual policies and proposals.

•      Before submitting to the District Council the organisation should publicise the proposals and bring them to the attention to people who live, work or carry on business in the area.

•      This stage must include a six week consultation period for representations to be made.

•      During this six week period the town or parish council should also consult the following bodies on the proposals:

•      Those listed in the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 as follows:

•      The County Council

•      The District Council.

•      Any parish council that adjoins the area,

•      The Homes and Communities Agency,

•      Natural England,

•      Environment Agency,

•      English Heritage,

•      The Highways Agency

•      Any relevant voluntary sector organisations

The town or parish council then consider the response and possibly revise the proposals in the light of comments received.

Stage 3. Independent Check

The draft plan must then be submitted to the District Council.

There are certain basic requirements which are essential components of any submitted neighbourhood development plan.

It must include:

1.         A map or statement, which needs to identify the neighbourhood area to which the plan relates

2.         A consultation statement

3.         The proposed plan containing all policies and proposals, including any site specific allocations

4.         A statement explaining how the plan has met the ‘basic conditions’.

  • It should contain details of the people and organisations that were consulted on the draft plan.
  • It should explain how they were consulted and summarise the main issues and concerns that were raised.
  • It should describe how these issues have been considered and addressed in the proposed plan.
  • It should demonstrate that there has been good community engagement and that it has informed the content of the plan.

The neighbourhood development plan must also meet certain ‘basic conditions’ before it can come into force.

These include that the plan:

•           Must have regard to national policies and advice, such as the National Planning Policy Framework

•           Must contribute to the achievement of sustainable development

•           Must be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the area, which includes any adopted local plans

•           Must be compatible with European obligations and human rights requirements.

•           A statement explaining how the plan meets these basic conditions needs to accompany the plan. In addition, the statement needs to document the process the group has been through.

Providing the submitted plan meets these requirements the District Council will then formally publicise the proposals for six weeks and invite representations.

An independent examiner will then be appointed to consider any representations and check it conforms to national and local policy. Changes may be recommended.

Stage 4. Community Referendum

Once satisfied with the plan, the District Council will organise a community referendum. Those eligible will be asked to vote on whether they want the District Council to use the neighbourhood plan to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area.  A majority of people voting must support the plan if it is to be adopted by the District Council.

Stage 5. Legal Force

The District Council will then bring the plan into force and publicise its decision. The plan will then become part of the statutory development plan for the area.