The County Association recommends that wherever possible all parish councils should prepare a Parish Plan. At the moment 50 Parish Plans have been created in County Durham and other parish councils are busy working on their plans too.
Now the serious bit!
Parish Planning is a step-by-step structured process to create a vision for a community and an action plan to achieve it. The process involves using a mix of evidence collection, different types of consultation and debate at the very local neighborhood level.
It is designed to be a process in which each and every citizen can participate and results in very high levels of participation. The resulting vision covers the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of the community and all those who live and work there.
If acted on promptly and properly Parish Plans can have a tremendous impact for local communities. As information contained in the plan has been ascertained directly from local communities then principal authorities and other funders could be more inclined to fund activities identified in a Parish Plan.
Parish Plans require a substantial amount of time, effort and money to produce a good plan. Most of the Plans produced by Parish Council produced plans utilised the services of the Durham Rural Community Council who use the sixteen point plan produced by Action with Communities in Rural England.
There are two main mechanisms for Neighbourhood Planning – Neighbourhood Plans and Neighbourhood Development Orders.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a new way of helping local communities to influence the planning of the area in which they live and work and can be used to:
- Develop a shared vision for your neighbourhood
- Choose where new homes, shops, offices and other development should be built
- Identify and protect important local green spaces
- Influence what new buildings should look like
Two types of bodies can create neighbourhood Plans
- Parish and town councils
- Neighbourhood Forums (where a parish or town council does not exist)
Neigbourhood Plans are optional and there is no legal requirement for a community to prepare one.
For example, if your Council is happy with everything suggested in the County Durham Plan (which is being prepared at the moment) then potentially there is no need for your council to produce a Plan but please beware that if you do not produce a Plan then another Neighbourhood Forum (Community Group or Residents Association etc) may promote the creation of a Neighbourhood Plan but will have to seek the approval of the County Council.
Neighbourhood Planning is an extension to Parish Planning but is specifically targeted at “Planning” requirements for a neighbourhood. A Neighbourhood Plan can be produced at the same time as a Parish Plan and uses the same methods of communication and participation with your community as a parish plan. Just the questions are more specific to Planning.
Once produced a Neighbourhood Plan is subject to an independent examination and a referendum. If 50% of those voting agree with the Plan then the local planning authority (DCC) must adopt it as an integral part of the overall County Durham Plan.
In April 2011 Greg Clark, Minister for Decentralisation, announced that CPRE, in partnership with NALC was one of four successful bids to Department of Communities and Local Government’s Supporting Communities in Planning scheme. The partners are to deliver training, information and advice to communities about the planning system.
CPRE/NALC have received government money to support Communities in Planning and have produced three booklets which should prove very useful for parish councils:
- How to respond to planning applications: an 8 step guide
- Planning explained
- How to shape where you live: a guide to neighbourhood planning
These publications are available on line through the CPRE website.
Every council should have received a copy of these guides, if not printed copies of these booklets are available from CDALC.
Sacriston and Bishop Middleham Parish Councils are currently developing Neighbourhood Plans as a pilot for County Durham. Bishop Middleham have already informed members of their experiences to date at the CDALC/CPRE/DRCC events held in December 2011 and March 2012.
The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) have a good presentation on their web site aimed at councillors. It explains some of the background and processes.