The Planning for the Future white paper, published earlier this month for consultation, praises neighbourhood planning as "an important means of community input" and says it wants to keep the process going forward.
But it proposes several ways in which it wants neighbourhood planning to change. “By making it easier to develop neighbourhood plans we wish to encourage their continued use and indeed to help spread their use further, particularly in towns and cities,” says the document.
1. Smaller areas could prepare neighbourhood plans
The current system allows a parish, town council or neighbourhood forums to apply for a neighbourhood area to be designated, and subsequent neighbourhood plans to be made.
The white paper suggests there is scope to “extend and adapt the concept”, allowing even smaller areas – such as individual streets – to set their own rules for the type of development they want to see.
While it doesn't specify how this would work in practice, the paper suggests this measure will ensure that the content of neighbourhood plans is "more focused”, and also reflects its proposals to simplify local plans.
2. Digital tools would be used more widely
The paper says the government wants to look at the "opportunities" that "digital tools and data offer to support [neighbourhood plan] development and improve accessibility for users".
It says: "Digital tools have significant potential to assist the process of neighbourhood plan production, including through new digital co-creation platforms and 3D visualisation technologies to explore proposals within the local context."
The white paper also proposes "pilot projects and data standards" to help neighbourhood planning groups make headway with this new approach.
It further says it wants to make planning information easier to find and more comprehensible, and to make sure it appears in "digital neighbourhood groups and social networks".
3. Neighbourhood plan groups would help shape new design codes
The paper proposes that neighbourhood plan groups should help local authorities produce design guides and codes that set out the general design principles that development proposals should follow in an area. The paper, which envisages strengthening the role of design codes in guiding new development, says this measure will help build trust and certainty that new schemes will reflect local character and preferences.
“Neighbourhood planning groups would be able to use local orders to modify how the standard types apply in their areas, based on local evidence of what options are most popular with the wider public,” it says.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN UPDATES
Southampton: Southwick Parish Council has published its pre-submission draft neighbourhood plan for a consultation between 10 August and 5 October 2020.
Kent: The Boughton Monchelsea Parish Council draft neighbourhood plan has been submitted to Maidstone Borough Council. The draft plan will be subject to a consultation between 14 August and 28 September 2020.
Herefordshire: Dinedor Parish Council has submitted its draft neighbourhood plan to Herefordshire Council. The draft plan will be subject to a consultation between 10 August and 5 October 2020.