Neighbourhood Planning Stages

There are five stages to neighbourhood planning:

Stage 1: Defining the neighbourhood

Local people will need to decide how they want to work together. Existing community groups may want to put themselves forward as an organisation to coordinate the local debate.

Alternatively, local people may want to form a new group. In both cases, the groups must meet some basic standards, for example having at least 21 members and be open to new members. Community groups need to apply to the Planning Policy Team at the Council.

We will check that the suggested boundaries for different neighbourhoods make sense and fit together. We will say `no' if, for example, two proposed neighbourhood areas overlap.The Council will also check that community groups who want to take the lead on neighbourhood planning meet the right standards.

The Council will say `no' if, for example the organisation is too small or not representative enough of the local community.

If the community group meets the right standards, the group can call itself a Neighbourhood Forum. This is the technical term for groups which have been granted the legal power to do neighbourhood planning.

Stage 2: Preparing the plan

With a neighbourhood plan, communities will be able to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood.

This can include where new homes and offices should be built, and what they should look like. The neighbourhood plan will set a vision for the future. It can be detailed or general, depending on what local people want. With a Neighbourhood Development Order, the community can grant planning permission for new buildings they want to see go ahead. The order will allow new homes and offices to be built without the developers having to apply for separate planning permission.

Groups can choose to draw up either a plan, or a development order, or both. They both must follow some ground rules, generally to be in line with local and national planning policies. They must be in line with other laws.If the Council considers that an area needs to grow, then communities cannot use neighbourhood planning to block the building of new homes and businesses.

Stage 3: Independent check

Once a Neighbourhood Plan or order has been prepared, an independent examiner will check that it meets the right basic standards.

If the plan or order doesn't meet the right standards, the examiner will recommend changes. If the examiner recommends significant changes, then the Neighbourhood Forum may decide to consult the local community again before proceeding.

Stage 4: Community referendum

The Council will organise a referendum on any plan or order that meets the basic standards.

This ensures that the community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood plan or order comes into force. People living in the neighbourhood who are registered to vote in local elections will be entitled to vote in the referendum.

In some special cases, for example the proposals put forward in a plan for one neighbourhood have significant implications for other people nearby, then people from other neighbourhoods may be allowed to vote too. If more than 50% of people voting in the referendum support the plan or order, then the Council must bring it into force.

Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, it carries real legal weight. Decision makers will be obliged, by law, to take what it says into account when they consider proposals for development in the neighbourhood. A neighbourhood order will grant planning permission for development that complies with the order. Where people have made clear that they want development of a particular type, it will be easier for that development to go ahead.


If you are interested in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan, ring the planning policy team on 01483 743871 or email The Planning Policy Team will be able of offer some assistance to those preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. A list of potential areas of assistance is provided here.