Devon Communities Together has provided advice and support to 50 neighbourhood planning groups in Devon. From how to get started, to detailed community engagement work, understanding housing needs or developing planning policies; we have partnered with communities to have greater say in their future development.

Getting Started 
Across rural Devon it is the decision of the Town or Parish Council to undertake a Neighbourhood Plan (NP). The council will ordinarily set up a steering group to lead the process, with representatives from the community including a few councillors. It is at this point we can step in to offer guidance and support.

“Thank you so much for your excellent talk last night. I have attended many talks about neighbourhood planning and your own was by far the best!

Thurlestone Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group

Once your NP group is set up, the next step is to decide on the boundary of the area that you want to plan for. Parishes can work together to create one plan, which may make the work more manageable. Once the boundary is agreed, it is submitted to the local planning authority who designate the area as suitable for a NP.

Preparing the Plan
Taking time to plan your NP project and budget how you will spend any resources available to you is time well spent. From our experience communities that are working to a clear and flexible plan, move through the process more smoothly.

It is helpful to initially gather some baseline evidence. What, if any surveys have been undertaken locally recently? What data does the local authority have for your area? What information do statutory bodies such as the Office for National Statistics, The Environment Agency or Historic England hold regarding your area?

In Aylesbeare we undertook this research for the steering group and distilled it in to a simple report, highlighting the key findings.
Next you will engage and consult with all sectors of your community: residents, businesses, land owners and local organisations - anyone interested in the future of your NP area. To do this you will need to go where people are; attend meetings, have a stall at the fete, put information in the local newsletter or on social media. You’ll also need to undertake specific engagement activities such as drop-in days and community surveys as well.

We have supported communities to do this, providing specialist advice around community questionnaires, data analysis and other forms of community engagement. We have also helped communities engage with young people and families, the farming community and other harder-to-reach parts of the community.

Together this information needs to be distilled in to a vision and aims. It may be immediately obvious how these can be achieved within the NP, otherwise further consultation or research may be required before the NP can be written.

Ultimately the aims that you have identified will be achieved by planning policies which are the heart of the NP. These are what will be referred to when future planning decisions are to be made about the local area.

“A very good and supportive service. We had every confidence in terms of support, advice and being contactable.

Aylesbeare Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group

The Final Stages
One you have drafted the NP and consulted on it within the local community it is submitted to the local planning authority, who will arrange for the NP to be examined by somebody independent to ensure the plan meets the basic conditions required for a NP.

Finally, if your plan passes these stages, the local authority will organise a public referendum, so that everyone who lives in your local area can decide whether they support it. If more than 50% of the votes are in favour of the plan, the local authority must bring it into force.

The NP will form part of the statutory Development Plan for that area. Any future planning decisions in the NP area must be made in accordance with your Plan.

By Martin Parkes

For support with your Neighbourhood Plan please call Martin on 01392 248919 ext 7106 or email [email protected]

Catalyst Consultancy Service