Where Councils have a Community Infrastructure Levy, (CIL) which is a charge on development, Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Forums that have produced a Neighbourhood Plan are able to have a greater say in where that money is spent and this incentive is a perfectly legitimate reason for doing a Neighbourhood Plan. Not all councils have CIL but may have one day so having a Neighbourhood Plan in place can be a good idea.
As well as being able to produce the Neighbourhood Plan, Parish Councils and Neighbourhood Forums have to be consulted on planning applications in their area and any comments they make have to be referred to in any relevant reports. This can help communities get a clear idea of what is happening in their area and give them a say on proposals. When producing a Neighbourhood Plan, groups can commission quality evidence such as Urban Design Analysis, Character Assessment, Housing Needs Assessment, Site Analysis and Site Assessment which can inform comments on planning applications.
Neighbourhood Planning can also work well alongside other initiatives that communities can do such as lobbying, funding bids, running events or setting up Community Land Trusts, Community Interest Companies or Development Trusts. But Neighbourhood Planning can be more than just another element. Neighbourhood Planning attracts grant and other support to help produce the Plan by funding engagement, strategy development including a Vision and Objectives to give direction to the Plan and quality evidence to give clarity about a variety of issues such as housing need, design and character and these can help develop and evidence a wide variety of other complementary initiatives.
The Vision and Objectives, if based on quality engagement so that they represent local concern and aspirations can provide clear direction to prompt, coordinate and support other complementary initiatives. For example, the Plan may have an objective to improve security and the Neighbourhood Plan could have policies ensuring that new development has high quality street lighting as well as other features that ensure safety such as habitable rooms overlooking public space and active frontages along streets. But the objective of improved security could also be met by the complementary action of improving existing street lighting which the group could lobby councillors and officers for. This way the objectives provide a simple way of coordinating the planning policies in the Neighbourhood Plan with complementary non-planning actions.
Engagement can have benefits for the community as well. Often issues such as education and housing cut across different groups and good quality engagement on these issues can help bring people together to tackle them. Not all engagement has to be filling in surveys, useful though this can be and there are lots of creative ways of to engage with people based around events, sport, music, food, play and so on which can bring people together.
We would be interested in hearing about your experiences with anything mentioned above, whether it is spending CIL, complementing the Neighbourhood Plan with other initiatives, community engagement, commenting on planning applications, using evidence or whatever.
Edward Taylor, PlanSpace.uk