Neighbourhood Plan FAQs

The following advice is provided to help you gain an understanding of Neighbourhood Plans and their development process and answer some of the common questions asked. Select a question from the list and the answer will be displayed below.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Neighbourhood planning was introduced in the Localism Act 2011. It is an important and powerful tool that gives communities statutory powers to shape how their communities develop.

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications,
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the Local Planning Authority,
  • A powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place.

Neighbourhood Plans become part of the Local Plan and the policies contained within them are then used in the determination of planning applications. Policies produced cannot block development that is already part of the Local Plan however. What they can do is shape where that development will go and what it will look like.

A Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory document.

How does this differ from a village plan?

A village or community plan is an informal document that only has relevance to the village or community that developed it. This type of plan can contain anything that the plan developers wish and can be written in any way. It has no legal status and is of no importance to the local planning authority.

Some communities prefer this less formal approach to developing a plan as it is less demanding in the rigour of its preparation and is not subject to critical examination.

Such plans still take time and effort to develop however and the more methodical approach required for a Neighbourhood Plan can be worthwhile as it has legal status.

Why do we need a Plan?

Having a Neighbourhood Plan for our parish helps to make it more likely that our area will remain a lively, diverse and vibrant area into the future. The policies in the Plan will be devised to protect the attributes of the parish that the community values and to mitigate their concerns as much as possible.

Without a Plan the future of our area would be determined by Harrogate District Council's "one size fits all" Local Plan which cannot necessarily adapt to the special requirements of our parish. Our area is very different from large towns like Boroughbridge and even has different concerns to our neighbouring villages like Burton Leonard and Minskip.

Without a Plan every planning application in our area would only be assessed against the national and district policies (as now), taking no account of our local housing needs, parking and traffic issues, and all the other policies included in the Plan.

Other communities are working on their own Neighbourhood Plans and there is a possibility that developers could in future take greater advantage of areas without one in force. They are already circling!

Why is the Parish Council leading the Plan?

As we live in an area with a parish council, then the Council has to lead on the neighbourhood plan. This is a regulation laid down in the Localism Act.

In areas without a parish or town council (i.e. most urban areas), a neighbourhood forum has to be created, which is a group specially set up to create a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood forums need to have at least 21 members.

Who will prepare the Plan?

The Parish Council (PC) is responsible for the preparation of the Plan. The PC has created a sub committee, known as the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (NPSG), and delegated powers to undertake the detailed survey and analysis work and prepare the plan document.

The NPSG is made up of members of the PC and residents from both Copgrove and Staveley communities. The NPSG operates under Terms of Reference set out by the PC.

The content of the Plan depends entirely on what YOU, the community, say is important and how you see the Parish in the future.

What is the Plan area?

The Parish Council decides on the neighbourhood area (i.e. the area within which the neighbourhood plan policies will apply). This is often the same as the parish boundary. However, parish or town councils may choose a smaller and more focused area, such as a town or local centre. Also, adjacent parish or town councils may agree to work in partnership to produce a joint neighbourhood plan.

Staveley & Copgrove Parish Council has decided on the Staveley and Copgrove parishes as the plan area.

Once the neighbourhood area has been identified, it is submitted to the local planning authority (Harrogate Borough Council) for designation (which means to officially recognise it).

What are the main Plan stages?

A Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory document and therefore has to follow a defined set of stages in its preparation.

Once the Plan area has been established it must be designated. We apply to the local authority (Harrogate Borough Council) to have our neighbourhood area designated (which means to officially recognise it). The public have an opportunity to object to the plan area.

The Plan is then prepared. There are no rules as to how the Plan is developed or what it must contain but there are criteria against which it will be judged. There is a set of Basic Conditions that must be met and the policies must not oppose those set at a national and district level. The plan policies must be evidence based and the preparation process must demonstrate involvement of the whole community.

The finished Plan must be submitted to the local planning authority for their approval.  They will appoint an external examiner to assess whether the plan meets the Basic Conditions, complies with national and local policies and is evidence based.

If the Plan passes the examination, the local planning authority organises a referendum and the Plan area residents vote on whether they support the plan or not. If the majority of those who vote say YES, the Plan is 'made' (adopted) and becomes part of the local planning framework.

What are the Basic Conditions?

All Neighbourhood Plans must meet a set of Basic Conditions set out by the Government.  These conditions are:

A. having regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State it is appropriate to make the order (or neighbourhood plan).

B. having special regard to the desirability of preserving any listed building or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest that it possesses, it is appropriate to make the order. This applies only to Orders.

C. having special regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of any conservation area, it is appropriate to make the order. This applies only to Orders.

D. the making of the order (or neighbourhood plan) contributes to the achievement of sustainable development.

E. the making of the order (or neighbourhood plan) is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area of the authority (or any part of that area).

F. the making of the order (or neighbourhood plan) does not breach, and is otherwise compatible with, EU obligations.

Further information on these Basic Conditions is available in the Document Library.

How long will the Plan last?

The NPSG has followed common practice in determining the plan period as 15 years. Most of the Neighbourhood Plans that have been adopted to date have a similar timescale.

Given that it will take time to prepare the plan, the plan period will be 2020 - 2035.

How long will it take to prepare the Plan?

From the experience of other groups who have completed a neighbourhood plan, the time to prepare a plan ranges from around 18 months to several years, depending upon the complexity and number of issues addressed.

The NPSG estimates that it will take approximately 2 years to take the Staveley & Copgrove Neighbourhood Plan through all its stages. A timescale chart (the plan tasks and when they will be done) is available for viewing in the Document Library. This document is subject to continual revision as the Plan develops.

How will the Plan policies be arrived at?

The Neighbourhood Plan project will begin with several public workshops to "brainstorm" what residents like about living in the parish and what they don't. These sessions will be followed up by a survey of all residents of the parish to establish the level of support for the workshop conclusions.

Using this information, a valued attributes list will be compiled along with a list of concerns and visions of what the parish should look like towards the end of the plan period.  These will form the basis of a set of sustainability objectives. Further workshops and public consultation will check whether the district and national policies are sufficient to meet our sustainability objectives. Specific local poicices will then be developed as deemed necessary.

A draft plan document will then be prepared based upon these policies, which will then pass through an iterative consultation/rewrite process until the majority of the community is satisfied with all the statements in the document.

Can we do anything we want through the Plan?

Alas, no. There are certain things that are specifically excluded like mineral extraction policies for example.

All our policies have to be capable of being applied through the current planning system and (unless there are truly extraordinary reasons why not) be in "general conformity" with national and district policies.

Everything in the Plan must be "evidence based" and not just a good idea somebody thought up. Surveys, workshops, exhibitions and consultations will contribute to our evidence base.

Finally, landowners must be treated impartially, and it must be possible for the allowed development to be economically viable.

How will the Plan policies be enforced?

All our policies will be applied through the planning system. All new planning applications for our area will be assessed by Harrogate Borough Council against the policies in our Neighbourhood Plan and permission would normally be refused if it does not conform with them. If an application goes to appeal our policies will also have equal weight with the national and district policies.

How much will all this cost?

Much of the work in preparing the Plan will be done by volunteers (Parish Councillors and local residents).  It may be necessary to engage professional consultants on specific issues, depending upon the issues and concerns identified in the early stages of the Plan preparation.

Grants from Central Government are available to assist with the costs of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan. If there is a need to engage specialist consultants, there are additional grants available to help with these costs. The Parish Council has also set aside a small sum to cover day to day expenses, such as printing and venue hire.

The NPSG maintains a budget for the Plan development, which is also available to view in the Document Library.

How can I find out how the Plan is progressing?

The NPSG meets once per month and all meetings are open to the public. See Upcoming Events for details of the meetings where you will be able to ask questions.

The Neighbourhood plan is one of the Parish Council's ongoing projects. See Our Ongoing Projects for information on the main project tasks and the actions taken.

The Parish Council email newsletter is distributed regularly to subscribers and this will provide updates on the plan progress. If you are not already a subscriber, sign up in the sidebar of the News page of this website.

The Plan preparation will create a number of documents, maps, background papers and reports. These can all be viewed and downloaded from the Document Library section of this website.

Part of the NPSG Engagement Strategy (Section 8) is to ensure that there is regular feedback on the Plan to the community. Letting people know where they can see the results of any engagement events or how to get hold of information that has been recorded through engagement will be important in the plan process being transparent.

Can I get involved in the Plan preparation?

Most certainly! The Neighbourhood Plan is a community project.

There will be a number of opportunities for everyone to have their say. The NPSG has prepared a Community Engagement Strategy which sets out who, when and how you can get involved. You can also see this strategy in the Document Library.

As and when the Plan is ready, you will have the final say by stating your support or rejection of the Plan in a referendum.

Will the Plan be bulletproof?

In theory, yes. If it gets 'made' following a referendum it becomes part of the planning policy framework for the area and its policies must be adhered to. In practice, not necessarily!

In the early years of Neighbourhood Plan adoption, following the 2011 legistlation that introduced them, appeal courts and the Secretary of State tended to uphold the plan policies when challenged. This is no longer the case and there have been a number of challenges to plans, primarily by housebuilders, over recent years that have been successful. There are a number of reasons for this.

The National Association of Local Councils undertook a review of the neighbourhood planning process in October 2018 and produced Where Next for Neighbourhood Plans.  This document details some of the problems that Neighbourhood Plans are facing, concluding by "appealling to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to acknowledge that this excellent community initiative is in serious danger of collapsing and to plead with them to take immediate action to save it."