The Neighbourhood Plan Process and Guidance
Setting up the Neighbourhood Planning Group
The responsibility for producing a Neighbourhood Plan lies with the town or parish council who are expected to resource the process and become the Neighbourhood Planning Group. However, Somerset Council will advise communities and we strongly encourage any Town or Parish Council who are thinking of doing a Neighbourhood Plan to get in touch. In the early stages we will require:
- written constitution
- proof you have at least 21 members for NDPs , or 10 if it is CRtBO , who are representative of the community – people who live or work in your area, and an elected member of Somerset Council
- evidence you are set up to promote or improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of an area that consists of or includes the neighbourhood area
Designating a Neighbourhood Area
The first step of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is for an application for designation of a Neighbourhood Area to be made to Somerset Council.
We will need from you:
- an ordnance survey map with the neighbourhood area boundary marked
- a statement setting out why you think this area is appropriate
- a statement that your organisation is a relevant body
Designation will also set the minimum area in which people will be eligible to vote at the referendum on your project.
Somerset Council will carry out a 6-week period of consultation, and after consideration of comments received will confirm their decision on designation.
Preparing a Draft Plan
You must undertake initial community engagement to identify key priorities and policy themes. You must then carry out a formal 6-week period of consultation on your draft plan in accordance with the regulations. Comments should be considered and any amendments made before the final draft plan is submitted to Somerset Council. A further formal 6-week period of consultation will follow.
Submit the plan to Somerset Council
Once you have finalised the project and checked it is legally compliant, submit it to Somerset Council with:
- ordnance survey map identifying the neighbourhood area
- consultation statement
- statement on how it fulfils the Basic Conditions
- any other supporting documents you feel are important evidence such as: sustainability appraisal, habitat regulations, or housing needs assessment
The Plan must then be checked for compliance with the basic conditions, and legal conformity by an Independent Examiner.
Somerset Council will then arrange a referendum in the area. If more than 50% of eligible voters vote in favour of the plan, then Somerset Council will make the plan within 8 weeks of the referendum. This is assuming no legal challenge is made and where it will not breach or otherwise be incompatible with any EU or other human rights obligations.
Assistance from Somerset Council
Somerset Council will agree with the Neighbourhood Planning group on the level and nature of the help, advice and assistance that can be given. There is a wealth of additional information and good practice guidance available and part of Somerset Council’s role is to signpost to this.
Somerset Council has a statutory duty to give advice or assistance as we consider appropriate. The duty is not prescribed but may be at least expected to be:
- Providing information on the neighbourhood planning process and planning issues
- Provision of constraints mapping information
- Data provision
- Consultation expertise
- Policy guidance
Somerset Council is responsible for paying for the costs of the examination and referendum but there is no legal requirement to give financial assistance for any other part of the process.