What is a Neighbourhood Plan ?

The basic purpose of a Neighbourhood Plan is to provide a statutory framework to manage and control the future development and use of land in a community. It gives local people the opportunity to decide the future of the places where they live, work and spend leisure time.

Operating in the context of the overall planning policies contained in the Cannock Chase Local Plan, which sets out the strategy for the future development of Cannock Chase District as a whole, it enables decisions to be made by the local community on the amount of new development and where it should be built, provided that it is not proposing less development than the Districtwide Local Plan. The plan can contain policies identifying the location and type of new housing, proposals for new retail, leisure and employment opportunities. A Neighbourhood Plan can also contain policies aimed at protecting and enhancing the local built and natural environment, including buildings, open spaces and footpath/cycle routes of importance to the community. The time period a plan should cover would normally be 10 to 15 years.

The plan must include evidence to justify its polices and proposals. Some of this evidence will be statistical information about the characteristics of the local community in terms of the social, economic and age structure of the population. Another important part of the evidence will be information about existing uses of land, what opportunities are available to develop or redevelop sites and what commitments already exist in the form of planning permissions granted but not yet implemented.  However the key source of evidence is an understanding of the local area obtained from seeking the views, aspirations, wants and needs of local people.

Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been produced it has to be submitted to the District Council and then be the subject of an independent examination. After these processes have been completed a public referendum is held where it is necessary for the plan to be supported by more than 50% of those voting. So the local community has the final say in the process.

Advantages of having a Neighbourhood Plan

A Neighbourhood Plan is produced locally by the Parish Council with the engagement of the wider community right from the start of the process, to ensure that it genuinely represents the needs and wants of the local area, provided that these can be expressed in policies relating to the use and development of land.

When the plan has been “made” after a positive referendum outcome, it becomes part of the statutory Development Plan for the area. This means that decisions on planning applications are normally required to be made in accordance with its policies, giving the local community more influence and control over the development of the area.

There are also financial benefits to the local community. Some infrastructure required to support new development, for example open spaces, leisure facilities, schools, health facilities and transport ( including road and public transport improvements ) are partly funded by Community Infrastructure Levy ( CIL ). CIL funds are collected by the District Council from developers of new housing and some new retail schemes. Currently 15% of the funds originating from a local area such as Norton Canes Parish have to be passed by the District to the Parish. The amount of funding received by the Parish increases to 25% where there is a Neighbourhood Plan in place, thereby increasing the opportunities for spending on infrastructure which is needed in the local area.