Neighbourhood Plans – Frequently Asked Questions
Questions and Answers relating to Neighbourhood Plans in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
The following has been prepared by Council officers and it is the Council’s interpretation of the legislation contained within the Localism Act 2011.
- What are neighbourhood plans?
- Can a neighbourhood plan stop development from happening in the area?
- What has the Council done to date and what other plans or guidance documents are already in place?
- What areas can be covered by a neighbourhood plan?
- Can there be more than one neighbourhood plan for an area?
- How long will it take to prepare a neighbourhood plan?
- What conditions must a neighbourhood plan fulfil?
- How much work will be required to produce a neighbourhood plan?
- What evidence has the Council already produced?
- What weight will be given to neighbourhood plans in planning decisions?
- What is the Council’s role in the neighbourhood planning process?
- Who will pay for the neighbourhood planning process?
- How long does a neighbourhood plan last?
- Who should I contact if I want to find out more?
- Where can I find further information?
A neighbourhood plan is a new type of plan, which will focus on a local area rather than the borough as a whole. Producing neighbourhood plans is optional and while the Council will provide technical advice and support, the neighbourhood plans will need to be produced by communities, and the plan making process must be led by a designated “Neighbourhood Forum”.
Neighbourhood plans can establish a vision for an area, include general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood and they can allocate sites for development. They should be about local rather than strategic issues. If adopted, they will form part of the overall development plan for the borough and will be used to assist in the determination of all planning applications in that area.
No – a neighbourhood plan can guide development to be more appropriate to local context and help decide where it goes within the area. A neighbourhood plan cannot stop development and government has made it clear that it is not a tool for residents to oppose proposals for new developments close to them. A neighbourhood plan can only include proposals for an equal (or greater) amount of growth than is set out in the Council’s development plan, regional and national guidance.
This Council has always given local communities the chance to influence the contents of our local planning documents, such as the Local Plan. Some of the concerns raised during consultation events about development are often in relation to strategic concerns, such as school places, GPs, transport and congestion etc. Strategic issues cannot be addressed in a neighbourhood plan.
The development plan for this borough includes:
- The London Plan (2011) is the overall strategic plan for London, and it sets out a fully integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of the capital to 2031.
- The Local Plan (adopted in 2018)is the strategic policy document, which sets out the priorities for the development of the borough and is used for making decisions planning applications.
- The Twickenham Area Action Plan (adopted 2013), focuses on Twickenham town centre, aims to create a strong employment location, district retail centre, visitor and tourist destination and centre for sports, leisure arts and cultural activities as well as a more diverse evening economy.
- The West London Waste Plan is jointly produced by six west London boroughs and plans for all waste in the overall area up to 2026.
- The Council has produced a series of supplementary planning guidance and documents which provide greater detail on certain planning policies and guidance for development for the borough’s different areas as well as for specific sites. In addition, there are various Conservation Area studies covering many parts of the borough
This Council is already very advanced in the production of the local planning documents, including guidance documents and a range of development briefs for important sites within the borough. In addition, there are various Conservation Area studies covering many parts of the borough and the Council’s village plans are also already at an advanced state. Therefore, we encourage community groups, prior to embarking on a formal neighbourhood planning process, to consider carefully the context and what plans and programmes already exist, and what more a neighbourhood development plan could achieve for their area.
In general terms, any area can have a neighbourhood plan. They can cross local authority boundaries but they cannot overlap with adjoining neighbourhoods, who also wish to prepare a plan for their area. The boundaries of the area will need to be agreed with and approved by the Council.
The topics that neighbourhood plans cover should be restricted to the use and development of land within that neighbourhood. The Council has already produced detailed planning guidance in the Village Planning SPDs, which set out how the Council, with its partners, is addressing the issues raised by residents in their areas and what communities themselves are doing to make their areas better. This guidance therefore already takes a local approach to planning that, to some extent, mirrors the neighbourhood planning processes.
No. There can only be one neighbourhood plan for an area.
Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared where a “Neighbourhood Forum” is formally established. A community group wanting to achieve “Neighbourhood Forum” status can approach the Council and ask for this; formal designation and approval of the Neighbourhood Forum by the Council will be required. A Neighbourhood Forum needs to be made up of a minimum of 21 members, who either live, work or are a Councillor in the area concerned. The Forum will also need to have a written constitution. The neighbourhood plan needs to be supported by the whole community before it can be adopted.
It will be up to individual areas to decide on the pace at which they wish to progress their plans. However, it is anticipated that on average the process is likely to take around three to five years.
Neighbourhood planning does not mean that communities can plan how and what they like. There are still parameters set by national, regional and local planning policies and neighbourhood plans will have to meet a number of conditions:
- They must have regard to national planning policy;
- They must be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained within the local development plan; and
- They must be compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements.
This will largely depend on how much detail the plan goes into. Neighbourhood Forums would also need to use appropriate, proportionate and up-to-date evidence to support the policies in a proposed neighbourhood development plan. In addition, there are minimum statutory requirements (e.g. Sustainability Appraisal) that will need to be completed.
The Council’s planning policy documents have been informed by robust and up-to-date studies and research into a number of planning topics (e.g. employment, flood risk etc), which also provide advice and information. Such research is kept up to date. See our Local Development Framework research page.
When adopted, neighbourhood plans will be statutory planning documents. They will form part of the local development plan, which is made up of the London Plan and our local planning policy documents (see question 3). Neighbourhood plans, once adopted, will have significant weight in making decisions on planning applications.
The Council has a duty to provide technical advice and practical support to those producing a neighbourhood plan. It has to:
- Agree the composition of, and formally designate, neighbourhood forums;
- Agree the boundary of the area to be covered by a neighbourhood plan;
- Organise the check by an independent examiner into a neighbourhood plan before it can be voted on in a local referendum;
- Organise the referendums; the plan will need to get majority support;
- Adopt the neighbourhood plan and bring it into force.
It will be up to the Neighbourhood Forum to pay for the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. The Council will only pay for the independent examination and the referendum, as well as provide technical advice and practical support.
A neighbourhood plan will normally last for five years at which point it should be reviewed. It will also be possible to review the plan within the five year period if necessary.
Contact the Planning Policy team by emailing email@example.com or calling 020 8891 1411.
You can find out more about neighbourhood plans and the Localism Act from these sources:
- The Localism Act – Powers for neighbourhood planning have been established in the Localism Act 2011; it is anticipated that these provisions will commence in spring 2012
- A plain English guide to the Localism Act – on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) website
- A guide to neighbourhood planning – the basics of neighbourhood planning, on the Planning Advisory Service website
- Neighbourhood Planning FAQs – Planning Advisory Service website
- Your Place, Your Plan – a leaflet from the TCPA for community organisations, business and individuals looking to get involved in neighbourhood planning;
- Planning Portal website – a short summary of neighbourhood planning.
Up to: Neighbourhood Planning
Updated: 16 June 2021