Neighbourhood Plans – Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers relating to Neighbourhood Plans in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

The following has been prepared by Council officers and it is the Council’s interpretation of the legislation contained within the Localism Act 2011.

  1. What are neighbourhood plans?
  2. Can a neighbourhood plan stop development from happening in the area?
  3. What has the Council done to date and what other plans or guidance documents are already in place?
  4. What are the Council’s Village Plans?
  5. What is the difference between neighbourhood plans and community plans or village plans?
  6. What areas can be covered by a neighbourhood plan?
  7. Can there be more than one neighbourhood plan for an area?
  8. Who can prepare a neighbourhood plan?
  9. How long will it take to prepare a neighbourhood plan?
  10. What conditions must a neighbourhood plan fulfil?
  11. How much work will be required to produce a neighbourhood plan?
  12. What evidence has the Council already produced?
  13. What weight will be given to neighbourhood plans in planning decisions?
  14. What is the Council’s role in the neighbourhood planning process?
  15. Who will pay for the neighbourhood planning process?
  16. How long does a neighbourhood plan last?
  17. Who should I contact if I want to find out more?
  18. Where can I find further information?

What are neighbourhood plans?

A neighbourhood plan is a new type of plan, which will focus on a local area rather than the borough as a whole. Producing neighbourhood plans is optional and while the Council will provide technical advice and support, the neighbourhood plans will need to be produced by communities, and the plan making process must be led by a designated “Neighbourhood Forum”.

Neighbourhood plans can establish a vision for an area, include general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood and they can allocate sites for development. They should be about local rather than strategic issues. If adopted, they will form part of the overall development plan for the borough and will be used to assist in the determination of all planning applications in that area.

Can a neighbourhood plan stop development from happening in the area?

No – a neighbourhood plan can guide development to be more appropriate to local context and help decide where it goes within the area. A neighbourhood plan cannot stop development and government has made it clear that it is not a tool for residents to oppose proposals for new developments close to them. A neighbourhood plan can only include proposals for an equal (or greater) amount of growth than is set out in the Council’s development plan, regional and national guidance.

What has the Council done to date and what other plans or guidance documents are already in place?

This Council has always given local communities the chance to influence the contents of our local planning documents such as the Core Strategy and Development Management Plan. Some of the concerns raised during consultation events about development are often in relation to strategic concerns, such as school places, GPs, transport and congestion etc. Strategic issues cannot be addressed in a neighbourhood plan. In addition, this Council is well ahead in the production of its local planning policy documents in the Local Development Framework and we will continue to encourage people to get involved in the production of local planning documents, as well as in the community and village planning processes.

The development plan for this borough includes:

  • The London Plan (2011) is the overall strategic plan for London, and it sets out a fully integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of the capital to 2031.
  • The Core Strategy (adopted in 2009) is the strategic policy document, which will determine the future planning policy for the borough. It outlines the vision, spatial strategy and 20 core policies for this borough.
  • The Development Management Plan (adopted in November 2011) builds on the Core Strategy and includes more detailed policies for the management of development across the borough.
  • All the policies within the saved Unitary Development Plan (UDP) (adopted in 2005), with the exception of some of the UDP proposal sites and the policy on waste collection and disposal, have been superseded by the above mentioned documents.
  • The Twickenham Area Action Plan, which is under preparation and focuses on Twickenham town centre, aims to create a strong employment location, district retail centre, visitor and tourist destination and centre for sports, leisure arts and cultural activities as well as a more diverse evening economy.  
  • The West London Waste Plan is jointly produced by six west London boroughs and plans for all waste in the overall area up to 2026.
  • The Site Allocations DPD, which will commence in 2012, will identify planning designations and allocate sites for housing, employment and other land uses.
  • In addition, the Council has produced a series of supplementary planning guidance and documents to provide greater detail on certain planning policies or for specific sites.

This Council is already very advanced in the production of the local planning documents, including guidance documents and a range of development briefs for important sites within the borough. In addition, there are various Conservation Area studies covering many parts of the borough and the Council’s village plans are also already at an advanced state. Therefore, we encourage community groups, prior to embarking on a formal neighbourhood planning process, to consider carefully the context and what plans and programmes already exist, and what more a neighbourhood development plan could achieve for their area.

What are the Council’s Village Plans?

Within this borough people have already been asked to what neighbourhood they belong. This was carried out as part of the “All in One” process (surveys and events), where every resident and business within the borough was consulted. As a result, 14 areas have been identified, for which the Council has now produced and published Village Plans.

The Village Plans set out how the Council, with its partners, is addressing the issues raised by residents in the area and what communities themselves are doing to make their areas better. The village planning process, where every local resident and business was asked on the priorities and issues for their neighbourhood, fulfils, to some extent, the aims and purposes of the neighbourhood planning process.

What is the difference between neighbourhood plans and community plans or village plans?

The Council’s Community Plan or Village Plans can cover all things important to a community. Neighbourhood plans are restricted to land use and development matters, which once adopted will become part of the formal local development plan, should relate to the use and development of land within a designated neighbourhood. In addition, the process and regulations set out in the Localism Act 2011 will need to be followed when preparing a neighbourhood plan.

What areas can be covered by a neighbourhood plan?

In general terms, any area can have a neighbourhood plan. They can cross local authority boundaries but they cannot overlap with adjoining neighbourhoods, who also wish to prepare a plan for their area. The boundaries of the area will need to be agreed with and approved by the Council.

As part of the All in One consultation process (see question 4), 14 areas have been identified, for which the Council is currently preparing Village Plans. The Council would recommend using these established neighbourhood/village boundaries for any possible future neighbourhood development plans.

Can there be more than one neighbourhood plan for an area?

No. There can only be one neighbourhood plan for an area.

What areas can be covered by a neighbourhood plan?

Neighbourhood plans can only be prepared where a “Neighbourhood Forum” is formally established. A community group wanting to achieve “Neighbourhood Forum” status can approach the Council and ask for this; formal designation and approval of the Neighbourhood Forum by the Council will be required. A Neighbourhood Forum needs to be made up of a minimum of 21 members, who either live, work or are a Councillor in the area concerned. The Forum will also need to have a written constitution. The neighbourhood plan needs to be supported by the whole community before it can be adopted.

How long will it take to prepare a neighbourhood plan?

It will be up to individual areas to decide on the pace at which they wish to progress their plans. However, it is anticipated that on average the process is likely to take around two years.

What conditions must a neighbourhood plan fulfil?

Neighbourhood planning does not mean that communities can plan how and what they like. There are still parameters set by national, regional and local planning policies and neighbourhood plans will have to meet a number of conditions:

  • They must have regard to national planning policy;
  • They must be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained within the local development plan; and
  • They must be compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements.

How much work will be required to produce a neighbourhood plan?

This will largely depend on how much detail the plan goes into. Neighbourhood Forums would also need to use appropriate, proportionate and up-to-date evidence to support the policies in a proposed neighbourhood development plan. In addition, there are minimum statutory requirements (e.g. Sustainability Appraisal) that will need to be completed.

What evidence has the Council already produced?

The Council’s planning policy documents have been informed by robust and up-to-date studies and research into a number of planning topics (e.g. employment, flood risk etc), which also provide advice and information. Such research is kept up to date. See our Local Development Framework research page.

What weight will be given to neighbourhood plans in planning decisions?

When adopted, neighbourhood plans will be statutory planning documents. They will form part of the local development plan, which is made up of the London Plan and our local planning policy documents (see question 3). Neighbourhood plans, once adopted, will have significant weight in making decisions on planning applications.

What is the Council’s role in the neighbourhood planning process?

The Council has a duty to provide technical advice and practical support to those producing a neighbourhood plan however, in view of current resource constraints any support would of necessity be very limited. It also has to:

  • Agree the composition of, and formally designate, neighbourhood forums;  
  • Agree the boundary of the area to be covered by a neighbourhood plan;
  • Organise the check by an independent examiner into a neighbourhood plan before it can be voted on in a local referendum;
  • Organise the referendums; the plan will need to get majority support;
  • Adopt the neighbourhood plan and bring it into force.

This is a new process that has not been tried before and it will therefore be a learning process for all of those involved, including the Council and its officers.

Who will pay for the neighbourhood planning process?

It will be up to the Neighbourhood Forum to pay for the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. The Council will only pay for the independent examination and the referendum, as well as provide technical advice and practical support.

How long does a neighbourhood plan last?

A neighbourhood plan will normally last for five years at which point it should be reviewed. It will also be possible to review the plan within the five year period if necessary.

Who should I contact if I want to find out more?

Contact the Planning Policy team by emailing PlanningPolicy@richmond.gov.uk or calling 020 8891 7117.

Where can I find further information?

You can find out more about neighbourhood plans and the Localism Act from these sources:

Updated: 30 October 2012