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Stages of preparing a neighbourhood plan

1. Defining the neighbourhood

Local people need to decide how they want to work together. In areas with a parish council, the parish council will take the lead on neighbourhood planning. In areas without a parish council, local people will need to decide which organisation should take the lead on co-ordinating local debate.

Parish Councils, or an other organisation, need to apply to the Local Planning Authority (LPA, the Council). We will then check the suggested boundaries for different neighbourhoods make sense and fit together. We can say no, for example, if two proposed neighbourhood areas overlap. We also check that the right standards are met. We can say no, for example, if the organisation is too small or not representative enough of the local community. If we think the community group meets the standards, the group can call themselves a 'Neighbourhood Forum'.

 2. Preparing the plan

Local people then need to work together and prioritise their early ideas and draw up their plan. The plan must follow some basic ground rules, including being in line with local and national policies and other laws. If the LPA says an area needs to grow, communities cannot use neighbourhood planning to block development, however they can use it to influence the type, design, location and mix of new development.

 3. Independent check

When a neighbourhood plan has been prepared, an independent examiner will check it meets the right, basic standards. If it doesn't meet the standards, the examiner will recommend changes. The LPA will then need to consider whether to make those changes. If the examiner recommends significant changes, the parish council may decide to consult the local community again before proceeding.

 4. Community referendum

The parish council will organise a referendum on a plan which meets the basic standards. This makes sure that the community has the final say on whether a neighbourhood plan comes into force. People living in the neighbourhood who are registered to vote in local elections will be entitled to vote in the referendum. If more than 50% of people voting support the plan, then the LPA must bring it into force.

5. Legal force

Once a neighbourhood plan is in effect, it carries real legal weight. Decision makers must consider proposals for development in the neighbourhood against that neighbourhood plan, along with all other policies.