What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
Neighbourhood Plans are a relatively new type of planning document introduced in the Localism Act 2011, which came into force in April 2012. They are defined as follows:
A “neighbourhood development plan” is a plan which sets out policies (however expressed) in relation to the development and use of land in the whole or any part of a particular neighbourhood area specified in the plan.
Neighbourhood Plans form part of the Government’s approach to planning, which aims to give local people more of a say about the future of their area.
The Northwich Neighbourhood Plan
In September 2012, Northwich Town Council agreed that it should work with the community to create a Neighbourhood Plan. Unlike other Neighbourhood Plans that are consultant-led or Council-led, the Town Council agreed that the Plan should be community-led.
An executive group was set up comprising four Town Councillors, two Local Business Leaders and the Town Clerk. The group appointed a professional consultant, Urban Roots, with extensive experience in Local Authority planning to provide support and guidance.
A number of Topic Area Groups (TAGs) were set up, each with a leader/facilitator chosen from the local community, based on their knowledge and experience in that area. These TAGs are:
- Retail and Commercial
- Employment and Education
- Environment – Natural and Built
- Transport and Infrastructure
- Health and Wellbeing
- Recreation, Tourism and Waterways
The Plan will attempt to answer seven key questions:
- How should the town centre be further developed and improved, ensuring safe and easy access for both residents and visitors?
- How can walking and cycling routes and facilities around the town be improved, for both recreation and commuting?
- Should we retain a market, and if so, how can it be made to flourish?
- How can we make best use of Northwich’s rivers and waterways for retail, tourism and leisure?
- Should we maintain the character of the town by ensuring that new development is in keeping with Northwich’s historic timber-framed and black and white buildings?
- How should we protect and make the best of our green open spaces, woodlands, parks and sports facilities?
- How can we make Northwich more environmentally sustainable?
What are the rules?
Although the Government’s intention is for the local people to decide what goes on in their towns, the Localism Act sets out some important principles to which Plans must abide. One of these is that all Neighbourhood Plans must be in line with higher level planning policy. That is, Neighbourhood Plans must be in line with the National Planning Policy Framework (otherwise known as the NPPF) and local policy, in this case the Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan Part I and Part II.
The Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan requires that the town of Northwich and adjoining settlements of Anderton, Barnton, Davenham, Hartford, Lostock Gralam, Lower Marston, Lower Wincham, Rudheath and Weaverham provide by 2030:
- a minimum of 4,300 new homes;
- a minimum of 30 hectares of additional land for business and industrial development.
The Localism Act allows the Plan to provide more than this number of houses and amount of employment land, but it does not allow the Plan to provide for less.