Steps towards designating a neighbourhood plan

Key stages for designating a neighbourhood plan

1. Defining the area designation

2. Approval of the neighbourhood body

3. Preparing a neighbourhood plan

4. Local engagement and consultation

5. Writing the plan

6. Pre-submission consultation

7. Submit plan

8. Independent examination

9. Referendum

10. Adoption

1. Defining the area designation

Parished areas can be designated as a neighbourhood area with the parish council registering their interest with Medway Council. The parish council are the qualifying body in producing the plan.

In unparished areas the community draws up the neighbourhood area boundary. Medway Council can assist if required.

The neighbourhood area is submitted to Medway Council who consult on the proposal for a statutory period of six weeks. A decision will be made following this period whether to designate the area or amend the boundary based upon comments received from the public.

More about regulation 5

2. Approval of the neighbourhood body

A community group can apply to Medway Council to become a designed neighbourhood forum subject to meeting the criteria described above. The Council consults on this proposal for a statuary six week period and takes into consideration any comments received from the public. They will decide whether the forum meets the required criteria and whether to designate the neighbourhood forum.

The neighbourhood area and neighbourhood forum applications can be submitted and consulted on at the same time.

More about regulation 7

3. Preparing a neighbourhood development plan

The parish council or neighbourhood forum needs to identify the aims and objectives for the plan, begin organising community engagement and commence collating an evidence base to support the plan.

This stage of the process can take anywhere between 18 months and 3 years to complete. This is due to applications for funding, commissioning for evidence and analysis studies which can take time to come forward.

4. Local engagement and consultation

Preparation of the neighbourhood development plan requires widespread publicity and opportunities for local stakeholders, and all who use the area, to be actively engaged and involved. The aim is to ensure transparency in the process.

When the plan is submitted it will be accompanied by a statement setting out how consultation has taken place and demonstrating that the legal requirements for consultation have been met.

5. Writing the plan

The parish council or neighbourhood forum needs to identify the aims and objectives for the plan as well as a clear vision for the future of the area. These will describe what the plan is seeking to achieve.

Draft policies and proposals can be worked on once there is a sufficient evidence base.

Proposed policies can relate to a wide variety of issues such as:

  • design
  • retail provision
  • leisure
  • culture
  • housing
  • employment
  • historic buildings or conservation areas
  • transport
  • landscape
  • recreation

During this stage it is essential to engage with the community to keep key stakeholders up to date with progress. Regular meetings with Medway Council are also important. Discussing the details of the plan with planning officers will ensure that the emerging neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions and conforms to the Medway Local Plan.

The contents of a neighbourhood plan are not legally prescribed but will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. It will be focused on the development and use of land.

6. Pre-submission consultation

A draft plan must be consulted on for a 6 week period publicised to:

  • all people who live, work or run businesses in the neighbourhood area
  • relevant statutory consultation bodies

This invites views and comments about the plan. It is carried out by the parish council or neighbourhood forum, which must be evidenced in a consultation report submitted to Medway Council. At this stage the draft plan can be amended as necessary, taking into account any comments that have come forward from the public in advance of submitting the plan for examination.

More about regulation 14

7. Submit plan

Having completed the plan and following consultation, the plan is submitted to Medway Council who check that proper legal processes have been followed. The Council then publicise and consult on the plan for a further six week period, during which time the document is made available for inspection and comments are invited.

The documents submitted include:

  • a copy of the neighbourhood plan
  • a statement explaining how the plan meets the basic conditions
  • a Strategic Environmental Assessment report or a statement explaining why one is not needed
  • a consultation report providing details of the engagement undertaken throughout the plan process

More about regulation 15

More about regulation 16

8. Independent examination

At this stage Medway Council will appoint an independent examiner to check the plan meets the basic conditions and standards. The examiner will take into account any formal representations submitted to Medway Council during the consultation period.

A public hearing would only take place if the examiner feels it is necessary. In this case the examiner invites interested parties to attend the hearing. The duration of the examination will be dependent on the number of policies and the complexity of the neighbourhood plan.

In coming to a decision the examiner will be in a position to either:

  • recommend that the plan proceed to referendum which will be adopted by Medway Council
  • require modification in advance of a referendum
  • not proceed to referendum

If the examiner recommends the neighbourhood plan proceeds to referendum it means the plan has met the basic conditions. If recommendations for modifications have been made and the proposing body are unhappy with them, they can withdraw the plan. 

More about regulation 17

9. Referendum

Medway Council will organise the referendum of any plan deemed to meet the basic conditions. Any person living within the neighbourhood area that is registered to vote in local elections will be able to vote on the plan. These could also include those within neighbouring parishes if it is deemed appropriate where proposals will directly affect them. This recommendation will be made to the council by the examiner within their report.

If more than 50% of the people voting in the referendum support the plan then it will be made.

10. Adoption

If the plan passes referendum it will become a part of the statutory development plan or Local Plan for Medway and will be given substantial weight in considering planning applications in the area. Adopted neighbourhood development plans will be published on the Medway Council website.