News and Comment Edit
Local planning proposals within the Localism Bill, 6 December 
As well as streamlining existing processes, the Government will introduce a new right for communities to shape their local areas by creating neighbourhood plans, and introduce powerful new incentives to encourage local communities to approve sustainable development. The new neighbourhood plans will be flexible so communities will be able to determine the issues or areas to cover and what level of detail they want to go into. Importantly it will enable communities (through a new Neighbourhood Development Order) to define specific developments or types of development which will have automatic planning permission without the need for any application to the local authority. For more complex cases they will be able to grant outline permission so that the right to develop would be established and only the details would need to be approved. This provides certainty which is vital for investment and giving communities confidence in the system. Neighbourhoods can also establish general policies that will steer decisions on traditional planning applications.
Defining neighbourhoods Edit
Communities will be able to propose the boundaries of their neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods will generally be based on existing parishes and towns but the local council will have a role in mediating and consulting where there are conflicts or no established boundaries. This will provide a stable basis for neighbourhood planning, with local authorities approving appropriate boundaries.
Process for developing neighbourhood plans Edit
Plans will be taken forward by Parishes or 'Neighbourhood Forums' in places without Parishes. The local council would have a duty to provide support and to ensure compliance with other legal requirements. There will be a light touch examination of the plan by an independent assessor to ensure that it complies with legal requirements and national policy, and is aligned with neighbouring plans and the strategic elements of the council's plan. A referendum (with a simple majority in favour) would ensure that the final plan had public support.
Neighbourhood plans must work inside some limits. It will not be a means for saying no to important growth. If major infrastructure is needed at a national level, such as a high-speed rail line, or if the strategic local plan calls for a certain number of homes to be built. They would still be required to be consistent with national planning policy and to conform to the strategic elements of local authority plans. The Localism Bill will have safeguards to ensure neighbourhood plans do not override these wider ranging plans. The National Planning Policy Framework will be vital in this respect.
The council will have a duty to adopt a legally compliant neighbourhood plan that had been successfully passed by a referendum, giving real power to communities to determine if the plan is acceptable.
"Local communities care deeply about where they live and know it better than anyone. Neighbourhood plans will allow civic societies and other community groups to take the lead in setting out what people value, what development is needed and what can change for the better in their area. With the right support, and safeguards to ensure the community voice cannot be ignored, a new era of neighbourhood plans spreading rapidly across the country could transform the ability of people to shape their local area." Tony Burton, Civic Voice.
Councils for Eden in Cumbria, Sutton in Surrey, West Dorset District Council, Bristol and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead have already shown an interest in working with their communities. Ministers will consider proposals to become Neighbourhood Vanguards as they come forward.