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FINALISING YOUR PLAN

5.1 Fine tune your plan to minimise overall impacts

‘Fine tuning’ is an important legal requirement of the SA directive, so be thorough and keep track of any changes made as a result of this stage.

Summarise all of the preferred options (established in 4.5) in one impact assessment template and calculate the cumulative impact for each impact assessment question.  The cumulative impact will not necessarily be an average of the assessments of each proposal as some will have much bigger impacts (positive or negative) than others.  The DIY SA guide includes a good example of this. 

Important questions to consider are:
Do any of the proposals have a particularly large number of negative impacts?
Do any of the assessment questions show a large number of negative impacts?
Are some assessment questions not addressed by the proposals (lots of blanks)?

The steering group will need to consider if any refinements to the plan are needed after exploring these questions
 
Local group to consider the combined effect of impacts and refine the plan if necessary
Possible help needed:
impartial overview of impact assessment, advice on changes to be made
 

5.2 Agree monitoring, evaluation and review

Legislation requires plan makers to monitor the significant effects of their plans. Most of the monitoring of the Neighbourhood Plan will be carried out by the local authority or at the national level.  However some impacts might warrant local level monitoring – and the steering group may want to do this anyway to make sure that the Neighbourhood Plan is effective.

Your local authority planning officer can advise what policies are already being monitored and what makes sense to additionally monitor.  The equalities officer at the local authority can advise on the monitoring of equalities impacts.  Monitoring, evaluation and review arrangements will need to be included in SA and EIA Reports (5.4 and 5.4).

It is most likely that the steering group will want to monitor the implementation plan to evaluate the success of actions and undertake regular reviews.

Local group to agree monitoring arrangements with the local authority
Possible help needed:
advice on evaluation and review, examples of monitoring and review tools 

5.3 Prepare final Neighbourhood Plan document

There is no set format for a Neighbourhood Plan but it is suggested that it includes the following elements:

  • Introduction – what it is, its status and area covered
  • How it was produced – the different stages and who was involved
  • Description of the area – key information about community profile and characteristics
  • Vision and objectives for the area
  • Map showing proposals for the area
  • Policies to guide development proposals
  • Topic related sections – explaining the issues, community opinion and conclusions.

Information that falls outside the remit of a Neighbourhood Plan could be included as an Appendix with an action or implementation plan. Good practice on contents and layout will be learned from the neighbourhood planning front runner projects.

Local group to prepare the final document
Possible help needed:
provision of maps, advice on layout and content, examples
 

5.4 Prepare final Sustainability Appraisal Report

The final SA Report may be longer than the Neighbourhood Plan but it will demonstrate clearly how decisions were made about the proposals included in the final document and it is a buffer against legal challenge.  It should include:

  • Introduction and methodology – the plan it relates to, the area covered, who has been involved in writing it and what they did at each step.
  • Policy context – Information from the SA Scoping Report with any updates.
  • Environmental context – Information from the SA Scoping Report with any updates.
  • Options - Information from the SA Scoping Report with any updates.
  • Assessment of options – how the assessment was carried out showing the templates and conclusions.  The reasons for choosing the preferred options is the most important bit.
  • Fine-tuning of the plan – present the summary table, explain how it was analysed, what changes were made and the reasons why.
  • Next steps – explain how impacts will be monitored.

The final SA report should be prepared and available for consultation alongside the Neighbourhood Plan proposals.  Get someone with SA experience to check it first for legal compliance. 

Local group to arrange for preparation of the final SA Report
Possible help needed:
advice on SA report
 

5.5 Prepare Equality Impact Assessment Report

There are a number of ways that EIA results can be published but it is suggested that a report is produced for consultation alongside the Neighbourhood Plan document.  The report should include:

  • Introduction and relevance – the plan it relates to and the relevance of equality duties
  • Evidence – Information available and evidence gaps.
  • Environmental context – Information from the draft SA with any updates.
  • Involvement and Consultation – who was involved, in what way, and what were the results
  • Options and their impacts – how the assessment was carried out showing the templates and conclusions.  Extract the relevant information from exercises undertaken in 4.4 and 5.1 
  • Next steps – explain how impacts will be monitored.

The EIA report should be prepared and available for consultation alongside the Neighbourhood Plan proposals.  Get someone with EIA experience to check it first for legal compliance. 

Local group to arrange for preparation of the final SA Report
Possible help needed:
advice on EIA report
 

5.6 Consult on Proposals

The neighbourhood forum / parish council is required by Part 5 section 14 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations to undertake a pre-submission consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan proposals.  It is required to:

  • publicise the proposals, bringing them to the attention of a majority of those who live, work or operate a business in the neighbourhood area;
  • publish contact details for representations and information about the proposed timetable for consultation (the minimum period is 6 weeks);
  • consult any statutory consultees whose ‘interests are affected’.

The local authority Statement of Community Involvement will include a list of organisations that need to be consulted on plans.  The list is likely to include the local authority itself (even though officers have been involved in supporting the plan), Essex County Council, neighbouring parish councils and other authorities, the Environment Agency, Natural England, English Heritage, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, water authorities, police authorities, health authorities and local organisations

After consultation the steering group will need to consider whether any amendments need to be made to the plan before formally submitting it to the local authority.

Local group to arrange for formal consultation
Possible help needed:
contacts for statutory consultees, advice on dealing with comments
 

5.7 Submit Proposals for Validation

The neighbourhood forum / parish council is required by Part 5 section 15 of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations to submit the Neighbourhood Plan proposals showing the title of the plan, the area covered and, if it includes a Neighbourhood Development Order, how it meets the requirements (as set out in paragraph 8 of Schedule 4B (process for making of neighbourhood development orders) to the 1990 Act). It must be accompanied by a consultation statement (2.6) setting out the names of those consulted, a summary of the main issues raised, and how those issues were addressed.

The local authority will conduct a check on the plan to ensure that the process that has been followed is in accordance with the Localism Act.  If so it will decide, in collaboration with the steering group, who to appoint as independent examiner.

The local authority will publish the Neighbourhood Plan proposals and will make any draft Neighbourhood Development Orders available for inspection.

From this point on, responsibility for ‘making’ the plan rests with the local authority
 

5.8 Independent Examination

The main purpose of the examination is to check that the Neighbourhood Plan conforms with:

  • The strategic content of the Local Plan / Local Development Framework
  • The National Planning Policy Framework
  • European Directives
  • National and international designations
  • Neighbouring Neighbourhood Plans

The result of the examination will be a report that will have one of the following recommendations:

  • that the draft Neighbourhood Plan should proceed to a referendum
  • that it should proceed to a referendum subject to certain amendments
  • that it should be refused

The local authority will publish the examiner’s report and its decision on whether or not the examiner’s recommendation should be followed.
 

5.9 Referendum

If you get to this point, well done!

The local authority will organise the referendum.  The decision to put the plan to referendum will be published on the local authority website.  The referendum will be open to any individual registered to vote in the ‘neighbourhood area’ defined in 1.4.  The Independent Examiner, or the local authority, may take the decision that the referendum should be extended to include residents over a wider area if certain policies in the plan have implications for surrounding communities.

If the majority of those who vote, vote in favour, then the Neighbourhood Plan will be made
 

5.10 The plan is made

The Neighbourhood Plan will become a planning policy document within the local authority’s current Local Development Plan and will be used in the determination of planning applications.

Getting Started
Getting Organised
Preparing an Evidence Base
Drafting Proposals