What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

The following notes were taken at a Neighbourhood Planning Meeting with RCCE on 25th March 2014. Note that this was not a Parish Council meeting but a fact finding meeting which was open to interested residents.

Ms Sarah Sapsford from Rural Community Council of Essex spoke about the practicalities of a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NP).

A NP is initiated and led by Parish Councils in a parish area – involving the wider community, businesses, groups, clubs & residents etc., It will give a say to the residents in land use and creating policies about what they want to happen in the future in their village. It is about increasing development in an area which includes all types of development not just residential or community.

A NP is a mini local plan – looks at local sites – infrastructure, what you need in your village over the next 15 years. Parish Councils have to apply to their local authority (Maldon District Council) to undertake a NP.

Housing allocation. A NP will allow you to decide how much housing development you would like in your village over the next 15 years. However, the amount of housing you want must be more or the same as Maldon District Council (MDC). It cannot be less.

Groups of Parishes can join together to produce a NP. The first group to do this was in Cumbria in the National Park area. 17 parishes, 245 houses over a 15 year period. A NP can cover part of a parish but everyone in the parish would have a say. A NP can include policies to protect green space, wildlife corridors.

Research has to be carried out on local development sites, is it suitable for your vision of the future – you must produce evidence why or why not the area should be included. MDC has information that can be used to produce a NP.

There must be a communication strategy – the NP must include a document showing communication with all members of the community.

On the negative side. It is a meaty document to produce and can take two years to do so – certain steps must be followed. Development could be in place before your plan is finished and approved. A NP can cost between £10k and £100K. If you don’t want any development don’t do a NP.

£7k from government support available until end 2015.
Planning Aid – paid by government to give support – up to £9k take up of this fund is high
and is limited.
Awards for All – part of the lottery – £10K Planning gain.
Current funding available for Parish Councils for specific projects the S106 agreement (also known as a planning gain) is being phased out and replaced by a new system called Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), currently this is 25% of each “open market” house built. This may not be very much if you are only building a few houses per year.

When you have produced your NP you need to carry out final consultation. It is then sent to an independent examiner.

There are three responses
Yes – referendum
Yes – minor alterations – referendum
No – Doesn’t meet conditions – need to start again.

The cost of the examiner and the referendum is paid for by MDC.

MDC receives £5,000 from the government to help you produce your NP. They receive a further £25,000 after the final referendum. A referendum is held and all residents are invited to vote on the plan. You must receive 51% yes votes from the total number of people who vote.

A NP includes information regarding roads, schools and all infrastructures but you may not
get the money to improve them.

The Chairman of Mayland Parish Council stated that until recently the Parish Council did not get support from many villagers but since the village has been targeted by developers (some of whom have approached and consulted with the PC) support has improved. We will continue to engage with the community, without their support we cannot produce a plan.

The following questions were put to Ms Sapsford: –
Q – Does a Steering Group need members of the public?
A – Yes. NP Steering Group members need different skills and are prepared to put in time.

Q – Are external planning consultants a good idea?
A – It can be useful to employ a planning consultant, communities can produce a NP for themselves with help from MDC – In reality employing a planning consultant doesn’t guarantee the NP will pass. It is a good idea to “cherry pick” certain things that they can do for you. If you have the resources an extern planning consultant will do it for you without your help. Gt. Dunmow took on a volunteer to help with their NP.

Q – Would our NP influence MDC?
A – MDC will give serious consideration to the contents of your NP once it has been approved
and the referendum result is a positive one. You can influence planning applications with policies. It was noted that the government says what development is needed in each area, MDC have allocated the majority of new housing. The next allocation is the rural allocation of 353 throughout the Maldon District.

Q – If we don’t have a NP will all areas be developed?
A – Once the MDC’s Local Development Plan is passed you will get some protection. A NP will not stop development but it will allow you some say on where and how many houses are built. It was noted that unless Mayland was prepared to take a large number of houses the influence with regard to the infrastructure would be limited.

Q – We have a small amount of money left over from the RCCE grant given to produce a Village Plan can we use it towards the cost of a NP?
A – Yes.

It was also noted that we must comply to British and European Law when dealing with areas
of specific scientific interest.

Ms Sapsford advised the council that there are templates available on NP’s already undertaken. It was suggested that we look are Moreton, Bobbingworth & The Lavers. Hold drop in sessions – advertise them well.
Latchingdon Parish Council which is of a similar size to Mayland has 2 Councillors and 3villagers on their steering group; they would like more villagers to join them.

It was agreed that an NP would not help us against the current crop of developers but if more developers came along in the future the NP would be helpful.

Q – Can we protect the housing in Mayland for local people?
A – No, the houses can be sold to anyone unless they are built on an exception site.

Q – A NP is in place for 15 years, do we have to review it at the end of the 15 year period?
A – Yes. It was agreed that a NP is a serious document and making decisions that will affect the village for 15 years is a big commitment. It could help bring back the community spirit; individuals can bring their ideas to the table for consultation.

If we have specific ideas for other peoples land i.e. a cycle path, we would have to consult with them. Whilst a NP allows you to put a policy on a piece of land you cannot stop the land owner from selling it but the buyer would be made aware of the NP’s policy. If owners wished to go against the policy they would have to show proof of why they think they should be allowed to do so.

Q – Has a plan ever had a majority No vote at a referendum?
A – No.

The Chairman thanked Sarah Sapsford for coming and answering all the questions.