Ray Dawe: Neighbourhood Plans help communities to influence the future planning of their areas

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Amid all the controversy and debate that has surrounded the site allocation part of Horsham District Council’s 20 year strategy for future homes and jobs (the Horsham District Planning Framework), it is interesting to point out that 95 per cent of it had broad agreement but in fact had little media coverage. One big and far reaching area is the provision in the strategy for Neighbourhood Plans. A Neighbourhood Plan is a new way of helping local communities to influence the planning of the area in which they live and work.

The Localism Act 2011 gave parish councils or neighbourhood forums in consultation with their communities the opportunity to produce a Neighbourhood Plan.

It can be used to:

• Develop a shared vision for your neighbourhood.

• Choose where new homes, shops, offices and other development should be built.

• Identify and protect important local green spaces.

• Influence what new buildings should look like.

We started this process in the Horsham District in 2013 and we have now 15 designated areas where these Plans are underway.

These are the parishes of Nuthurst, West Grinstead, Henfield, Upper Beeding, Storrington and Sullington with Washington, Thakeham, West Chiltington, Pulborough, Shermanbury, Southwater, Woodmancote, Ashington, Slinfold, Shipley, and Warnham, taking us to 50 per cent of the District taking part in this process.

There are grants available both from the Government and from the district council to help communities produce their Plans and to ensure that they are able to get professional planning advice to achieve this.

The district council is also supporting the process by giving technical help and support to all the communities participating.

An important provision of the legislation is the money provided in it for infrastructure improvements.

Communities which have a Neighbourhood Plan in place will directly receive 25 per cent of monies coming from a new charge on developers (the Community Infrastructure Levy) that is being imposed when they build in an area.

Any parish without a neighbourhood plan will only receive 15 per cent.

While they should be a local expression of the way a community wants to develop, it is necessary part of the process that they must be consistent both with government legislation (the National Planning Policy Framework) and local planning policies (the Horsham District Local Planning Framework) and when completed, after consultation with the community, they will have to go through an independent examination.

If then more than 50 per cent of the community votes in a referendum to agree the Plan, then from that time on decisions on all planning applications in that area must take this Neighbourhood Plan into account.