What is Neighbourhood Planning?

What we know from this country and the Continent is that if you involve people from the beginning, you get better development, you get development that is more consistent with the character of an area; and that is better for everyone.  Simon Jenkins, National Trust

Whose idea was neighbourhood planning, and why?

The Localism Act 2011 gave local communities the right to shape the sustainable development of their area, through the production of a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP or NP).  The regulations for this were formalised in the  National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which came into effect on 6th April 2012.  When the NPPF was launched on 27th March 2012, the key objectives were given as

  • To put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live;
  • To better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home, and to allow the jobs to be created on which our prosperity depends; and
  • To ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.

Why bother with a Neighbourhood Plan?

A Neighbourhood Plan then,  is the way local people can ensure they get the right types of development to grow their area.  It is the way that strategic development policies in the Leeds Local Development Framework (LDF) (due to come into effect late 2013) can be shaped at local level by local people.  Although the  Neighbourhood Plan cannot ‘promote less development’ than set out in the LDF once it is ratified  (National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), paragraph 184 & 185),  it can provide:

  •  detailed evidence of need and sustainability, (sustainable development is the benchmark of the NPPF)
  • a complete vision and the detail of how people want the area to develop eg a new school, upgrading community facilities, more industry
  • a plan for innovative change and design to placemake

Once ratified by a local referendum the Neighbourhood Plan will have legal weight.

Who can draw up a Neighbourhood Plan ?

Neighbourhood plans are the responsibility of local communities; either parish/town councils, where they exist, or, if there is no such council, a neighbourhood forum.

A number of places in Wharfedale and Airedale already have parish councils eg Horsforth and Bramhope; however, Aireborough – Guiseley, Hawksworth, and Yeadon,  does not.  Therefore WARD (Wharfedale & Airedale Review) has facilitated the setting up of an independent Neighbourhood Forum for Aireborough to give local people a say in how the area develops.

How is a Plan produced?

A Neighbourhood Plan, has to represent the views of a cross-section of a community.  Thus a neighbourhood forum must have a minimum of 21 people involved who live, work or do business in the area.  The forum must research and consult on local spatial planning issues and ideas,  with a wide variety of local interests.  It then needs to produce an evidenced based Neighbourhood Development Plan to address the issues, using the ideas.  In essence this local plan is about placemaking, drawing on local assets and overcoming problems in order to enhance local distinctiveness and wellbeing.

How does the Neighbourhood Plan link with other development plans?

The neighbourhood plan must be in general conformity with the local authority development strategy – in the case of Aireborough that is the Leeds local development framework (LDF).  The Leeds LDF will be replacing the regional spatial strategy (RSS), and the current unitary development plan (UDP) and is expected to be completed in Late 2013.   Aireborough will also be affected by Bradford’s local development framework, which is proposing that 3,100 houses are built on green belt from Menston to Addingham.

How does a Neighbourhood Plan become a binding document guiding future develoment?

Once drawn up, a neighbourhood plan goes for inspection by an independent body,  and finally to a local referendum for democratic approval.   If all of that is achieved, the neighbourhood development plan becomes part of the LDF,  and has to be used by the Council for making planning decisions.  Neighbourhood development plans do not have to be done by a community,  but, without one local people have little say in how their neighbourhood should develop, and where development or what type or of what design, should go.

Why is a Neighbourhood Plan important to Aireborough?

In the Leeds draft LDF there is currently very little of detail about Aireborough, but there is a requirement to build 2,300 more houses before 2028, (with a further 2,000 houses proposed for the Otley area).   In the Leeds strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA) a great deal of green belt land has been identified as possible locations for this housing.  These locations are being assessed for development in the Site Allocation Development Plan Document (SADPD) from the autumn of 2012. So, it is important that Aireborough starts looking at its own detailed needs for sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – especially in the light of what Bradford are planning in their LDF.

If all current plans go ahead, the area in the triangle between Addingham, Otley, and Rawdon, could see nearly 8,000 more houses; when our roads, schools, trains, and services are already overstretched . Many people, including local MP’s are advocating that this is unsustainable, without considerable infrastructure improvements, and serious attention paid to green infrastructure, and conservation of the character of local communities.  Thus a neighbourhood plan is vital.  Otley, and Horsforth Town Council are doing one,  Ilkley  and Bramhope are  exploring the idea.

Is this all about new housing development then?

It is important to understand that development, under the Localism Bill and NPPF, does not just mean housing.  Placemaking issues that can be addressed by a neighbourhood development plan include:  transport, jobs, skills, housing, design standards, community facilities, shops, energy, green space, schools and education, environment, ecology and culture.  Objectives of placemaking, should include, sociability, connectedness, comfort, image, history, usefulness, and vitality.

Will houses not just be built whatever we say?

All of these placemaking objectives fit with the key consideration that runs through the new 2012 planning legislation – a presumption in favour of sustainable development.   Sustainability means a balance of social, environmental and economic factors, and is best gauged through measures of wellbeing. The  definition of sustainability in the NPPF is as follows:

The UK Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future, set out five ‘guiding principles’ of sustainable development:
  1. living within the planet’s environmental limits;
  2. ensuring a strong, healthy and just society;
  3. achieving a sustainable economy;
  4. promoting good governance;
  5. using sound science responsibly.”