4.1 Draft a vision and objectives for the area
Developing a vision and objectives for the community will be an important first stage in drafting the Neighbourhood Plan. The vision will be an overarching statement, or series of statements, describing the area in 15-20 years’ time. It may cover what the area will look like, what facilities will be provided, what it will be like to live and work in etc. The objectives will be more specific and will set out what the community wants to achieve in order to help make the ‘vision’ a reality. For each element of the vision there may be one or a number of objectives, depending on the different priorities of the community.
Take a look at the vision and objectives in the saved Local Plan or LDF Core Strategy for the district or borough as an example and, based on the evidence gathered (as summarised in 3.6), draft some statements that relate more specifically to the neighbourhood area. It would make sense for the vision in the Neighbourhood Plan to cover the same time period as the one for the local authority area (or the period for the plan they are currently working on if it is not yet in place). The vision and objectives for the neighbourhood area must not conflict with those for the district / borough as a whole.
Local group to prepare a vision and objectives
Possible help needed: information about the local authority area vision or emerging vision and objectives, facilitation of a steering group meeting
4.2 Feedback and further community Involvement
It is important to report the factual information and survey findings back to the community and to gather opinion about priorities and options for action in the light of these findings. The steering group will need to:
- show how comments and responses relate to the factual information gathered and the conclusions drawn by the steering group (invite further comment on this);
- check that the community supports the draft vision and objectives for the area;
- explore different options, making it clear that this is a requirement of a neighbourhood plan and that none of the options listed is a preferred option. For some topics you may be reporting back findings on options included in a survey (3.5) but for other topics you may be seeking opinion on different options;
- ask if there are any other options that have been overlooked;
- continue to take contact details of those attending events and providing comments so they can be involved in assessment of impacts and invited to comment on the final document.
Information can be published in local newsletters, magazines and on the website with an invitation for people to comment. An event, or series of events, should also be organised. This could be open days/exhibitions, workshops or informal discussion groups.
At the end of this stage, any necessary amendments will be made to the vision and objectives, and comments noted on the options, for inclusion in the draft SA report.
Local group to organise a feedback event to publicise findings and seek opinion on the vision, objectives and options
Possible help needed: provision of maps, provision of planning information, advice on how to present the options, examples from other community led plans, advice on event organisation, facilitation of event
4.3 Prepare an SA Scoping Report
At this stage, all of the information required to produce a SA Scoping Report will have been collected. The SA Scoping Report should be prepared and sent to the local authority. Get someone with SA experience to check it first for legal compliance.
The SA Scoping Report should include:
- Introduction and methodology –Provide information on the area covered by the neighbourhood plan; who has been involved in writing the plan and carrying out the SA and the objectives of the plan (to the extent that you know them).
- Policy context - What national guidance, local plan(s) and other documents were reviewed. This should be a summary of the work carried out in 2.6.
- Environmental context - How the evidence base was prepared, details of the information collected, a map showing designations and the location of local facilities. This should summarise the work undertaken in 3.3 to 3.5
- Sustainability Issues and Problems - A concluding summary of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
- Options - How options were identified and a list of them as a result of the work undertaken in 3.6.
- Next steps – How the impact of the different options will be assessed and the framework that will be used. The framework used by the local authority for their SA may be a good basis, or you may wish to use the template as suggested in DIY SA
The local planning authority will consult on the SA Scoping Report with the statutory consultees (Natural England, English Heritage and Environment Agency) on your behalf. Statutory consultees will be given at least 5 weeks to comment on the draft report. Do not start assessing the impact of options until their comments have been received. The steering group will need to respond to comments from the consultees but it is not compulsory to do what they suggest; planning officers will be able to advise on this.
Local group to arrange for preparation of the SA Scoping Report
Possible help needed: advice on SA report and how to respond to comments
4.4 Assess impact of options
The assessment of the impact of options is an important step in the SA process. EU legislation requires that environmental impact is assessed. British law requires that equality impact is assessed. UK planning guidance suggests that social and economic impact is assessed.
Impact assessment must be undertaken as a group exercise, involving those with an interest in particular topics. The meeting (of series of meetings if topic related) should include a review of the relevant parts of the evidence base, an explanation of the options (with maps where site specific) and a structured method for assessing each option. A planning officer or someone else from outside the community could facilitate these meetings.
The most straightforward way of recording an impact assessment is to use a template. An example is suggested in DIY SA where the impact assessment questions are listed down the left hand side and each option has a column across the top. The assessment questions can cover all the possible impacts that need to be assessed – environmental, social, economic and equalities. SA reports produced by the local authority for their development plans will have a template which could be used.
A template will be needed for each issue or topic. Discuss for each assessment question whether the option would have a positive or negative impact and write the reasoning and conclusions in the cells within the template. The cells can also be colour coded to aid the exercise visually: green for positive, red for negative, amber for in between, blank for no impact / not relevant.
Where there are several distinct options for tackling an issue, this exercise can help to identify the best option or it can eliminate all options; it can improve the options that are suggested and it can suggest new options. It may be necessary to do several rounds of assessment as new options are proposed or refined. For each template a conclusion should be reached about which options (if any) should be taken forward and an explanation of the reasons why.
Local group to arrange meetings to assess the impact of options
Possible help needed: advice on community involvement methods, facilitation of meetings, technical advice on impact assessment
4.5 Choose preferred options and draw up proposals
For each of the broad objectives agreed and supported by the community, the steering group should consider what proposals should be put in place to try and achieve them. The proposals will be the preferred options based on information gathered during previous stages and could be policies and/or actions. Site-related policies must be drawn up in negotiation with the relevant landowners or site promoters. Action plans must be drawn up in partnership with organisations that will be involved in delivering the action.
Policies may take one of the following forms:
- Policies that allocate specific sites for particular types and scales of development e.g. residential, employment, community use, energy generation;
- Policies that specify particular requirements relating to a development e.g. landscaping, amount of green space, community facilities and general infrastructure;
- Policies that specify sites for protection or enhancement as environmental assets or areas of landscape character;
- Policies that are more generic in relation to any future development e.g. design and character, energy standards, transport and access.
Policies must be credible, justifiable and achievable. Many of the policies will need to be shown diagrammatically, on a map, as well as being in written text. The policies will guide planning applications but will not in themselves ‘make things happen’.
A neighbourhood area should also consider the management of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments within the Neighbourhood Plan. The CIL is a charge, set by the local authority through a ‘charging schedule’, on the owner or developers of land that is being developed. The charge should contribute to the costs of providing the infrastructure needed to support the development of the area. Parish Councils (or similar groups such as neighbourhood forums in non parished areas, subject to approval by the local authority) will receive a proportion of any CIL payments in relation to development within their area. Government has recently consulted on the proportion of CIL that should be allocated to local areas, which will be confirmed soon. Therefore, neighbourhood plans should identify how CIL payments allocated to their area should be used.
Actions will be included in an implementation plan which sets out ‘who will do what’ to deliver the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan. The actions should meet ‘SMART’ criteria:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable (achievable)
R = Realistic/ Relevant
T = Time Related
This implementation plan need not be part of the Neighbourhood Plan itself but could be an appendix to the main document which continues to evolve as actions progress and new ones emerge. As a separate document, it could also include actions to tackle some of the issues that were raised during the process but fall outside of the Neighbourhood Plan remit e.g. speeding, bus services, activities for young people etc.
If the community wants to ‘make development happen’ it should consider, as part of the implementation plan, the creation of a Neighbourhood Development Order or a Community Right to Build Order.
Local group to agree preferred options, draft policies and draft an action plan
Possible help needed: advice on policy wording, advice on Neighbourhood Development Orders, advice on preparing SMART action plans, training, examples from other community led plans
4.6 Check for conformity with strategic policies in the development plan
This is a check that the policies and actions included in the Neighbourhood Plan document are in general conformity with strategic planning policies. Hopefully, if there has been continued liaison with planning policy officers, there should not be an issue.
Local authority will check conformity
4.7 Consult on proposals
It is suggested that an open day or exhibition is organised to display the draft policies and implementation plan and invite comment. The impact assessment templates should also be displayed to explain the preferred options.
This stage is the last opportunity, other than the formal consultation in 5.6, to check whether the community will support the Neighbourhood Plan.
The events should therefore be widely advertised within the community (in accordance with the communication strategy 2.1) as well as targeting contacts on your database; key organisations, landowners and individuals who have expressed an interest. There must also be an opportunity to comment for those not able to attend the events by providing access to the information on a web site or hardcopy.
Local group to consult on the draft policies and action plan
Possible help needed: provision of maps and information for the consultation, advice on organising a consultation