The Localism Act 2011 introduced a statutory regime for neighbourhood planning allowing parish/town Councils or other relevant bodies such as residents’ associations to produce a development plan for their neighbourhood if they wish. If not a parish/town Council the first step is for the relevant body is to apply to their local planning authority (“LPA”) to be recognised officially as a “neighbourhood forum” and then for both to have their area designated as a “neighbourhood area” following which the LPA will publicise the applications. Public Notices placed by the LPA will commence a period of consultation which if no major objections are received will allow the LPA to make the necessary decisions to let the parish/town council or neighbourhood forum go ahead with preparing neighbourhood development plans. If major objections are received the LPA will need to consider these and possibly allow further periods for discussion to overcome the objections. Once designated the parish/town councils or neighbourhood forums can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in their neighbourhood. Additionally; in an important change to the planning system communities can use neighbourhood planning to permit the development they want to see – in full or in outline – without the need for planning applications through application of “neighbourhood development orders” in the same way as permitted development. Proposed neighbourhood development plans or orders need to gain the approval of a majority of voters of the neighbourhood to come into force. If proposals pass the referendum, the LPA is under a legal duty to bring them into force. They will however have to meet a number of conditions before they can be put to a community referendum. These conditions are to ensure plans are legally compliant and take account of wider policy considerations (e.g. national policy, conformity with the overall development plans for the local area). An independent inspector will review a neighbourhood development plan or order to ensure that it appropriately meets the conditions before it can be voted on in a local referendum. LPAs will continue to produce overall development plans that will set the strategic framework within which neighbourhood development plans will operate. Benefits include firstly the neighbourhood plan process being a positive way of engaging local people in the planning process and secondly the process can help to promote and deliver the objectives of the LPA’s own development planning through local input. For further information on planning matters please contact Kevin Breslin at kbreslin@setfords.co.uk or by telephone on 0203 376 2700.