Village Planning explained

Information on what Village Plans are, how they are produced, and what advantages they can bring for communities.

What are Village Plans?

Village Plans are a tool which we use to help understand issues in each village community, to tailor services, and to facilitate communities to address issues themselves. Each plan describes a vision for the village area, and identifies what the Council will do, and what local people can do, to achieve the vision together.

Village Plans are not statutory, and we are not obliged to prepare them.

The first round of fourteen Village Plans were compiled between 2011 and 2013. These are now being reviewed and updated.

View the Village Plans

Scope of the plans

The Village Plans are wide in scope – all of the issues are considered and passed on to the relevant services within the Council as well as partner organisations, for example Transport for London and the Police.

Issues are collected in a variety of ways including meetings with local organisations and walkabouts with residents, as well as the more formal Leader’s Question Times, drop in exhibitions and questionnaires.

Planning guidance

The main difference between the current phase of Village Plans and those prepared in 2011 is that the current plans include formal planning guidance. In the first phase of village plans many people expressed the desire to shape planning policy in their area, so now the opportunity is being taken to boost this element of the Village Plans with a dedicated section providing Village Planning Guidance.

In planning law it is called a Supplementary Planning Document or SPD. While it has a formal legal status (unlike Village Plans generally), it is produced in a straightforward way involving the community.

Current Village Plans therefore have two elements:

  1. A general Village Plan
  2. Formal Village Planning Guidance which does not change over time

Village Planning Guidance (SPD) and Neighbourhood Plans

We have set out a programme to review every Village Plan in the borough and produce Village Planning Guidance covering every village, with the exception of Ham and Petersham, where the community have requested, and received, the Council’s support to prepare their own plan (called a Neighbourhood Plan) for the area.

Neighbourhood Plans are produced by Neighbourhood Forums rather than the Council. One of the challenges that local communities face in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is that it is a big undertaking to develop a plan in accordance with the legal requirements and needs the commitment of volunteers.

We did not want communities who did not have volunteers to take on this undertaking to be excluded from developing guidance for planning decisions in their area, so we identified producing Village Planning Guidance SPDs in collaboration with local communities as a way of helping.

Producing the Village Plans

This graphic(pdf, 44KB) explains how Village Plans and Village Planning guidance is produced.

How the areas were defined

The village areas are based on the areas that residents most identified with in the All in One survey in 2010. The boundaries are fluid and reflect how people live, for example living in one area and working or studying or enjoying leisure time in another.

Whilst the Village Plan boundaries are fluid, the Village Planning Guidance boundaries have to be definitive so it is clear which sites and streets each relates to.

As far as possible the boundaries will match what people said in the All in One survey, although sometimes there are good planning reasons why this may vary. For example, a Conservation Area may lie in more than one village area, and from a planning point of view it is best to consider the Conservation Area as a whole.

Community input

Many different techniques are used to collect the views of the community, as we are keen to reach out to people who would not normally contact their councillors or council staff, as well as those who are very involved in their community.

We include drop in exhibitions and walkabouts because some issues, such as the physical character of the area, are best illustrated in this way, and some people prefer this form of presentation.

To help us produce the Village Planning Guidance we are particularly interested in what people consider to be the local character, heritage assets and local opportunities for improvement.

How Village Planning Guidance is produced

In order to give Village Planning Guidance formal status the Council has to carry out additional consultation.

  1. We put forward our initial ideas on the character of areas at the drop in exhibitions and online as part of the general Village Plan consultation
  2. While the general Village Plan is then prepared for the website, all the comments relevant to planning are analysed separately and feed into the preparation of Draft Village Planning Guidance
  3. We then consult again on this, and use the comments to inform the preparation of a final version of the Village Planning Guidance
  4. This final version is then formally adopted for use in determining planning applications


After engagement on the Village Plan has taken place there is further consultation on the Village Planning Guidance. It therefore takes some months to prepare Village Planning Guidance.

If we wish to alter Village Planning Guidance, we must go through the formal process again.

Viewing the Village Plans and Village Planning Guidance

Once we have collected the views of the community we update the Village Plans online. Village Plans do not exist in paper form – they are web-based and regularly updated.

In order to comply with planning regulations, Village Planning Guidance is available in both hard copy and web form.

You can view completed Village Planning Guidance online, or email for a copy.

The impact of Village Plans

Influence of the plans

Consultation with residents identifies areas the community would like improved or changed. This information is collected and is sent to the appropriate departments, to see what is already being done, and what might be possible. From this, a range of actions are agreed to meet local needs. Sometimes it might be that we can do something directly to address an issue; other times it might be most appropriate for the us to work with local partners or the community to address an issue. Either way, the aim is to develop a number of action points, which are then recorded online.

The information raised by residents is also kept on the website. This represents a store of community opinion that can help to guide future action by council services and community organisations. This takes place by providing evidence of the key issues local residents face, and what local communities would like to see more of.

Finally, Village Plans can provide an impetus for community action. Consultations encourage local people to think about how they would like to improve their communities. This in turn can encourage people to consider what they can do, and also brings a range of different people and groups within the community together. In the past this has inspired a range of different community projects, which have made communities more vibrant and active.

How Village Planning Guidance is used

Village Planning Guidance (Supplementary Planning Documents) have to refer to a defined physical area, in order to comply with the law. These documents cannot change national planning rules or planning policy as set out in, for example, the National Planning Policy Guidance, the London Plan or Richmond’s own Local Plan. But they can flesh out the policy and explain how it will apply.

Many local and national planning policies refer to the existing character of an area. Village Planning Guidance can usefully describe what the character of individual, small parts of the borough is like, for example specific housing estates with a particular character, or shopping areas, and what features should be retained and what opportunities there are to improve the area.

In some villages the Village Planning Guidance may identify potential extensions to existing Conservation Areas, or areas which might be suitable to become new Conservation Areas. Every part of a village is covered in Village Planning Guidance.

This can be helpful for:

  • Applicants for planning permission
  • Amenity societies commenting on planning applications
  • Planning officers assessing applications
  • Councillors making planning decisions

Village Planning Guidance can also be used by the Council to defend its decisions when applicants appeal against the refusal of planning permission.

Community influence on Richmond’s Planning Policy

Comments made as part of the Village Planning Guidance process cannot change existing national or local planning policy. However, we are working on a review of our Local Plan.

Any comments which are relevant to how local policy might change in future are passed on to the Planning Policy Team so they can take them into account when preparing the new Local Plan.

Updated: 12 May 2017