What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
It is a document describing the desired plans for a village over a 5-10 year period and contains the areas the majority of residents feel are important. It covers topics such as housing and development, schooling and amenities, environmental protection, transport and highways. The document requires considerable consultation with everyone in the village, planning and work to bring it all together. Once the village has agreed on its content, South Staffs District Council must approve it. It is not a way to get property building through and pass unwanted schemes in the village without consultation. Equally, it can not stop development that is already planned.
Neighbourhood Plan Advisory Committee/Steering Group – Due to the work involved in producing a Neighbourhood Plan, additional people to Parish Councillors are needed. Day to day tasks such as organising consultation events, information gathering, editing drafts and producing the final plan will be delegated to this committee. The Steering Group is an advisory committee therefore can only advise, and not make decisions; The parish council still has responsibility for the plan and all final decisions made. The steering group will be responsible for ensuring links between the parish council, the community and other professionals involved are maintained. The relationship between any group and the town or parish council must be transparent to the wider public, publishing meeting agendas, minutes and publishing relevant documents.
Steering Group Membership – To work effectively membership should be between 10 and 15 and ideally reflect the character and diversity of the local population, with people from different places in the area and different sections of the community. All members of the steering group need to be aware that they are there to represent the community and should follow the Nolan Principles which are: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, honesty, openness and leadership. The decisions made by the steering group should be taken solely in terms of the public interest, and it is important that personal factors do not affect decisions. If it is found that members of the steering group have acted inappropriately it could jeopardise the whole neighbourhood plan.
Relevant skills and experience that may be useful to the steering group include:
– Project management;
– Familiarity with the planning system;
– Community engagement;
– Marketing, promotion and consultation;
– Writing, editorial, graphic design;
– Expertise in specific topic areas, e.g. housing, transport, the historic environment.
If you would like to know more about what a Neighbourhood Plan is, you can find out more on the website set up for parishes and town councils: What is Neighbourhood Planning?.