Neighbourhood Plan – FAQ

Neighbourhood Planning – What is it all about?

Neighbourhood planning is part of a Government initiative to devolve decision-making down to local communities, so they have a greater say in issues that affect them. The 2011 Localism Act and the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 provide three tools that Parish Councils can use to give their communities a greater voice in the future development of their areas.

  • Neighbourhood Plans
  • Neighbourhood Development Orders
  • Community Right To Build Orders

The Orders effectively give the Parish Council the ability to grant planning permission for certain community projects, without going through the usual planning application process involving Milton Keynes Council. An Order might be considered to be appropriate, for example, for the Village Shop. The Neighbourhood Plan is a formal document that sets out the community’s vision for its own development. Once adopted, it will be used by Milton Keynes Council (along with its own Local Plan – Plan:MK) to determine all planning applications.

There is a lot of background information on the internet, see the Links page.

Can a neighbourhood plan stop development from happening?

A plan or order can be used to shape where and how development takes place but it cannot be used to say no to development.

The process of preparing a plan or order includes understanding what a sustainable and appropriate level of development is for your community and looking at where this additional growth might go.

What weight will be given to a neighbourhood plan in decisions about development?

When adopted, neighbourhood plans will be statutory planning documents. Once adopted, neighbourhood plans will have significant weight in making decisions on planning applications. 

How long will the plan last?

A neighbourhood plan will normally last for five years at which point it should be reviewed. It will also be possible to review the plan within the five year period if necessary. However, as the Local Plan (Plan:MK) is looking up until 2031, we will be considering aligning to this time period, with a possible review after five years.

How can we be sure the Steering Group works in our best interests?

The process of developing a Neighbourhood Plan is fully legislation and the Plan will be independently examined to ensure that all legal requirements have been met. We have to submit additional documentation to support the plan and to detailed who, how and when we have consulted with to ensure that we have approached the Plan correctly. We have to provide evidence to demonstrate that we have met the ‘Basic Conditions’ laid down by law.

So, what’s the process?

Stage 1: Scoping

  • Process initiated by a qualifying body (the Parish Council)
  • Establish a steering group
  • Develop your objectives, priorities and vision
  • Select the most appropriate approach
  • Neighbourhood Area Designation
    • Define your neighbourhood area
    • Submit your application
    • Decision notice issued

Stage 2: Delivery

  • Develop your draft plan (this is the real hard work)
  • Six week period of consultation
  • Finalise and submit your plan to MKC
  • Six week period of consultation
  • Independent examination
  • Community referendum

What is happening in Milton Keynes?

Milton Keynes Council supports the principle of Neighbourhood Plans, with many local villages and areas having already completed their own plans (nearby examples include Olney, Ravenstone, Hanslope, and Sherington). A list of the completed plans to date within Milton Keynes is here – Plans in MK area

How does this relate to the Site Allocations Plan?

The Neighbourhood Plan covers ALL development. The Site Allocations Plan is limited to housing. The two are complementary, and the public consultation for the Site Allocations Plan will inform the Neighbourhood Plan too.

How much effort is involved?

A lot! The total effort depends on many factors, so it is difficult to predict. The village of Strumpshaw in Norfolk is one Parish with a population of 600 that has completed its Neighbourhood Plan, and reports that it required 1500 man hours of voluntary effort. They had a Steering Group of five residents and chaired by the Parish Council Chairman. A key member was a retired local government chief officer.

What is the cost and who pays?

There is no fixed format or template for a neighbourhood plan and the cost of preparing a plan is therefore likely to vary depending on the complexity and size of the proposed plan . Thankfully, there are various grants available. The Government are making £22.5m available for 2015-2018. The cost depends on many factors, including the extent to which we need to use paid-for professional consultants. Any additional spend over the grants, would need to be met by the community, e.g. the Parish Council would have to meet the cost through the Precept, so it is paid for by local Council Taxpayers.

Research is currently in progress to ascertain the costs incurred by other areas, so that we have a more reliable estimate for our own budgeting purposes.

Will we need to employ specialist input to support our plan?

The amount of evidence that needs to be produced will depend on the scale and ambition of the Neighbourhood Plan. This will be fully determined by the results of the initial feedback we get from the residents.  The Steering Group is very lucky to have a very high standard of skills and knowledge, however, we do currently expect that further specialist assistance will be required. However, we do also expect to be able to use existing available evidence such as that used by MKC in its Plan:MK preparations.

How long does it take?

The amount of work will be largely dependent on the content and scope of the plan, and the availability of volunteers. However, preparing a neighbourhood plan is likely to take a considerable amount of time and effort, and a timescale of probably 1-2 years. We expect our plan to take anywhere between 18 and 24 months (from the date of formal designation). However, the need for extensive consultations, some of which have a statutory time period, places constraints on this.

Who takes part?

You do. The WHOLE community is involved and WILL be consulted – residents, landowners, businesses, local organisations, developers, etc. The exact form of all the extensive consultations that will be required has yet to be decided by the Steering Group. Your suggestions as to how this can be done are welcome.

Does it over-ride the Milton Keynes Council plans, e.g. any specific number of houses as may be specified in the Core Strategy?

No. It has to be consistent with Milton Keynes Council’s plans (Core Strategy, Plan:MK and Site Allocations Plan) and, when adopted, will have equal legal force.

Do all new developments have to include Affordable Housing?

The National Planning policies as incorporated into the Plan:MK determine how many Affordable Houses are to be included in a new development.  The current policy is that for developments of more than 12 houses, 40% of the number built must be affordable – they are typically built for a Housing Association.  Reduced percentages of Affordable Housing are often agreed between MKC and developers for a variety of reasons – e.g. to secure other community or public benefits or to ensure the development is commercially viable.

What about environmental issues?

Establishing whether a neighbourhood plan requires an environmental assessment is an important legal requirement and should form an integral part of the neighbourhood planning preparation process. In addition to considering the need for an environmental assessment, although not a legal requirement, it is good practice to consider the social and economic effects of your neighbourhood plan. This ‘sustainability appraisal’ will help to ensure that your neighbourhood plan contributes to the achievement of sustainable development.

Once the plan has been drafted and reviewed by the residents, what does Milton Keynes Council do then?

When the Plan has been prepared, it has to be submitted to Milton Keynes Council for independent review. It is checked for compliance with regulations and legislation, and also for consistency with Milton Keynes Council’s own Local Plan. Milton Keynes Council can not otherwise over-ride the wishes of the community as expressed in the Plan.

What is the Referendum all about?

Once it has passed the Milton Keynes Council’s review, the Plan is then subject to a referendum by the eligible electors. Therefore YOU have the final say. In the case of Woburn Sands nearly 90% voted in favour or their plan.

The question that will be asked is: “Do you want Milton Keynes Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for the Stoke Goldington Area to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”

I care about Stoke Goldington and its future – how can I get involved?

We need you! Just contact the Steering Group – email: Stokegoldingtonnp@gmail.com