The idea behind localism is that decision-making be passed to a more local level from national and regional level to local government and from local government to local communities.
There are two main parts to Neighbourhood Planning: Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders (including the Community Right to Build).
What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. A neighbourhood plan is about the use and development of land and may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development. It may deal with a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues (such as housing, employment, heritage and transport) or it may focus on one or two issues only. These may be issues that are relevant to the whole neighbourhood or just part of the neighbourhood. This is for those producing the plan to decide.
A Neighbourhood Plan will be part of the statutory development plan for the area if successful at referendum. This statutory gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than some other local documents, such as parish plans, community plans and village design statements.
A Neighbourhood Plan must comply with European and national legislation and must have appropriate regard to national policy and be in general conformity with existing strategic local planning policy. It should not promote less development than that identified in the development plan for the local area (such as new housing allocations). It can allow greater growth levels. Also, it can specify policies and guidance on how new development should be designed, orientated and located. Neighbourhood Plans can be a powerful tool in shaping the development of a neighbourhood. The timeframe for the Neighbourhood Plan will be for communities to decide.
A robust programme of community engagement and proportionate evidence base should help to make sure that a neighbourhood plan is based on a proper understanding of the local area and of the views, aspirations, wants and needs of local people. Producing a clear project plan with key milestones could be very helpful in guiding the plan-making process.
Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been completed, it will have to be submitted to the Westminster Council as the local authority and then be subject to an independent examination. This will make sure that the proper legal process has been followed and that the plan meets the basic conditions, including general conformity with strategic local policy.