Working With Local Communities
Neighbourhood Plans are intended to enable local communities to produce their own legally binding planning policy documents, so it is very important that people living and working in the plan area are able to have a say about what goes into the plan.
Neighbourhood Plans are the only kind of statutory plan that must be approved at a local referendum before they come into force. People who live within the Neighbourhood Area must vote on whether or not to approve the Neighbourhood Plan before it becomes a part of the statutory planning system.
In order to achieve approval in a referendum it is essential that local people feel able to support the plan and its contents. So the active engagement of the local community is absolutely necessary to achieve a positive vote at the end of the process.
Public Consultation Process
Broadly speaking the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan involves three stages of community consultation:
• Stage 1 – information gathering and identifying the main issues that the Neighbourhood Plan will have to deal with. Local people know their own area best, so it is very important to ask them at the outset what the problems are and what they think should be given priority.
• Stage 2 – once the key issues have been identified the next stage involves investigating the problems, needs and aspirations that have been highlighted and producing initial ideas about how they might be addressed. These ideas can then be tested in focus groups made up of people who live and work in the area, and with agencies who may be responsible for some of the actions that are required to solve the problems or fulfil the needs.
• Stage 3 – the next step is to produce a draft Neighbourhood Plan which is then the subject of statutory consultation. This stage is a legal requirement and involves certain legally defined procedures to bring the draft Neighbourhood Plan to people’s attention and invite their written comments.