The Localism Act 2011 introduced a new right for communities to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan. This allows local communities to play a more positive role in the planning decisions for their area.
The process was started by Somerford Parish Council in November 2014 who after consulting the parish about creating a neighbourhood plan appointed a steering group to take the process forward.
The steering group consists of Parish Council members and local residents.
Members: Chairman Sandy Kenyon, Jonathon Maginness, Matthew Harnett, Nigel Buckley.
*The Steering Committee is now disbanded and any questions should be referred to the Parish Council*
The whole process should identify and reflect what the community want and with that in mind the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group made a decision to consult with residents on each stage of the process. The first step taken was a questionnaire to find out what issues concerned people followed by a meeting where people were again asked what were the issues of greatest concern to them. This was then followed up with a survey to see which of these issues were of concern to a lot of people.
From the results of the survey objectives were written and again a meeting was held and residents invited to examine the draft objectives and to have a tea and cake. This was to make sure that the steering group had understood the issues and raised the correct objectives to address these issues.
The next step will be to write Policies and again to consult on these. Then the final step will be to put together the whole neighbourhood plan with the policies and the evidence of how these were reached and all other supporting documentation needed.
The steering group has also consulted with other local organisations including businesses, schools and landowners.
After the completed Somerford Neighbourhood Plan has been shown to the residents and any amendments made it is then passed over to Cheshire East Council who then appoint an Independent Examiner and then a referendum is held. If more than 50% of the people who take part in the referendum vote ‘yes’ the neighbourhood plan is ‘made’ that is it is adopted and becomes part of the Local Plan.
Benefits of a Neighbourhood Plan
Developing a Neighbourhood Plan can help communities to play a greater role in shaping the future of their area, offering them the opportunity to include their own local planning priorities and aspirations within the wider planning system.
It will bring together residents, businesses, local groups, landowners and developers to share ideas and build consensus about what needs to be accomplished, whilst also helping to create lasting partnerships both within and outside the community (for example with public service providers, local businesses or development companies).
The first stage in neighbourhood planning is the designation of a neighbourhood area. The proposed neighbourhood area will have to be formally approved by Cheshire East Council. Somerford proposed a Somerford Neighbourhood Area that was the same geographical boundary as Somerford Parish. Cheshire East Council after receiving the application formally publicise the application for 6 weeks and then consider any representation made before the designation takes place.
The second stage is preparing the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan. This is undertaken by the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group which has been appointed by Somerford Parish for this purpose. This will only be done after lengthy consultation with residents as the steering group is writing the plan on behalf of the residents so it is important to make sure that it truly reflects their wishes. To achieve this aim various consultation methods will be used including questionnaires, surveys and events where residents can meet the steering group and express their views.
Residents will be kept fully informed of the process through various media including newsletters, posters, banners and announcements in local papers. The result of this will be a Neighbourhood Plan and/or a Neighbourhood Development Order. A Neighbourhood Development Order is a means for a parish to grant planning permission to certain kinds of development in their area. A Neighbourhood Plan is a document that will be referred to for development in the future.
The third stage is the independent examination stage. It is the responsibility of Cheshire East Council to organize and cover the costs of the examination. An independent examiner will make sure that the plan covers the ‘Basic Conditions’ and other legal requirements. They may make suggestion to the steering group of any amendments needed before the plan can proceed to referendum.
The fourth stage is the referendum. This again is organised by Cheshire East Council. A date is set for the referendum and it is publicised by Cheshire East Council for 28 days prior to the event. Residents will then vote on the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan. If more than 50% of those residents voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’ then the neighbourhood plan is ‘made’ and it is brought into legal force.
The application by Somerford Parish Council for Somerford Neighbourhood Area to be designated was finally agreed by Cheshire East Council on 20th July 2015.
The process was started by Somerford Parish Council in November 2014 who appointed a Steering Group to take the process forward.
The Steering Group is supported by Cheshire East Council and Somerford Parish Council but are independent of them.
The first Steering Group meeting was in December 2014.
Somerford has applied to Cheshire East to be designated as a Neighbourhood Plan Area – the area applied for is the same as the area covered by Somerford Parish. The neighbourhood area was designated by Cheshire East on 20th July 2015.
The Steering Group must make sure that the Neighbourhood Plan complies with what is called the ‘Basic Conditions’:
- The Neighbourhood Plan must contribute to sustainable development
- The Neighbourhood Plan must be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the Cheshire East Local Plan
- The Neighbourhood Plan must follow national guidance which includes the National Planning Framework sometimes called the NPPF or the Framework.
- The Neighbourhood Plan is compatible with EU regulations.