What does a Neighbourhood Plan do?
Neighbourhood Plans can help to influence the use and development of land in a specific area. They can establish a vision for the area, including general policies for the development and use of land and bring forward sites for development. They should focus on local, rather than strategic issues.

Do we have to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan?
No. It is entirely optional. It's up to the local community to decide whether or not they wish to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan. The Vale of White Horse District Council is keen to help local communities become more involved in the planning of their local communities. However, it is important to note that there are a number of existing planning tools, such as Parish Plans and Village Design Statements, which communities can use to shape development in their local area.

Why should we consider preparing a Neighbourhood Plan?
Neighbourhood Plans are intended to give local people a direct say in the future development of their area.  A Neighbourhood Plan gives local people the chance to create a planning document that guides and shapes development in their local communities. In turn, this will help to influence what facilities are provided in the area.

Can a Neighbourhood Plan be used to block development?
No. Neighbourhood Planning is about shaping the development of a local area in a positive manner. It is not a tool to be used to prevent development proposals from taking place. It should reflect local and national policies. Neighbourhood Plans are not able to promote less development than set out in the Local Plan or undermine its strategic policies. A Neighbourhood Plan can be used to ensure that any development is in line with the wishes of the local people and is sympathetic to local need.

Can a Neighbourhood Plan promote more development than the local plan permits?
The National Planning Policy Framework makes explicit reference to the opportunity for Neighbourhood Plans to promote more development than is set out in the local plan.

Can my community have a Neighbourhood Plan?
Yes. Any communities may prepare a Neighbourhood plan. In parished areas, the Town or Parish Council will be the relevant ‘qualifying' body to initiate and lead a Neighbourhood plan. The area covered can be the Parish or Town Council boundary or just part of it. It is also possible that if some parishes wish to work together, they can produce a joint Neighbourhood Plan.

In non-parished areas, where community groups wish to carry out a Neighbourhood Plan, a Neighbourhood Forum will have to be set up and designated by the local planning authority. The boundary may be defined by the forum, but it will need to make sense in terms of service arrangements, transport, communications and community. We anticipate that Neighbourhood Plans in our district will come forward through Town and Parish Councils.

Can there be more than one Neighbourhood Plan?
No. There can only be one Neighbourhood Plan for each Neighbourhood Plan Area. It is therefore important to consider carefully what goes into it.

What's the difference between a Parish Plan, a Village Design Statement and a Neighbourhood Plan?
The concept of neighbourhood Planning is not entirely new. Some communities have already been involved in planning their local areas through a community led plan, such as Parish Plans and Village Design Statements (VDSs). These are non-statutory planning tools and therefore they do not form part of the District Council's development plan.

Are Parish Plans and Village Design Statement still valid?
Yes. Parish Plans and Village Design Statements remain one of the tools that communities might use to deliver their aspirations for their areas. They can also provide a good starting point for communities when thinking about preparing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Can we put anything we like in a Neighbourhood Plan?
No. There are a number of conditions that will need to be met:

  • They must have regard to national planning policy;
  • They must be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the local development plan;
  • They must be compatible with EU laws and human rights obligations.

When the plan has been produced, it will have to be considered by an independent examiner to ensure that it is legally compliant and consistent with these requirements.

Following the independent examination, a local referendum will be held so that the whole community has the opportunity to vote on whether or not to adopt the plan. A majority vote (more than 50%) of the local community is needed to progress the plan towards adoption by VWHDC as part of its Local Development Framework.

What is a strategic policy?
A strategic policy normally means a policy that is essential for the delivery of a strategy, and it is a matter for each local authority to determine. Whilst the strategic policy will be different in each local authority's area, the overall scale and distribution of housing and employment are likely to be considered ‘strategic policies' in many local council areas.

What help can VWHDC provide?
VWHDC's Planning Policy team are able to provide guidance on Neighbourhood Planning and advice about the process. The level of support will depend on the number of enquiries we receive and the available resources. However, we can provide the following help:

  • Sharing evidence and information on planning issues;
  • Helping with public consultation events;
  • Providing advice on national and local planning policies that the Plan or Neighbourhood Development Order will need to accord with;
  • Providing advice which organisation that you will need to consult;
  • Organising the independent examination of the Plan;
  • Organising the community referendum of the Plan.

How much is it likely to cost?
The cost of producing a Neighbourhood Plan will depend largely on scope, complexity and size of the plan. The latest Government estimates suggest that Plans could cost between £10,000 and £30,000 and take up to 1-2 years to prepare.

Who pays for the Neighbourhood Plan?

  • Town and Parish Councils are responsible for paying for the preparation of the plan.
  • The District Council will pay for the examination and referendum.

How much work will it involve?
The amount of work involved will largely depend on the level of detail that it is included in the plan. Neighbourhood Plans need to be based on appropriate, proportionate and up-to date evidence to support its policies. In addition, there are minimum statutory requirements, such as a Sustainability Appraisal and Habitat Regulations Assessment which will need to be completed alongside the plan. The District Council will provide technical support and guidance to help you through the process. It is a new way of working for all involved.

If we have a Neighbourhood Plan, does it mean we don't have to use the Vale of White Horse District Council's existing planning policies?
No. Where there are adopted Neighbourhood Plans, they will form part of development plan and decisions will be taken in accordance with them.