We have provided a list of the Frequently Asked Questions and the answers.

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What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

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A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development and growth of an area. It may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development. All Neighbourhood Plans must meet Basic Conditions, which are described below. Neighbourhood plans relate to the use and development of land and associated social, economic and environmental issues. It may deal with a wide range of issues (like housing, employment, heritage and transport) or it may focus on one or two issues that are of particular importance in a local area.

A Neighbourhood Plan will be subject to examination and referendum and then form part of the Local Development Plan. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than some other local planning documents, such as parish plans, community plans and village design statements.

Why Make a Neighbourhood Plan?

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Neighbourhood Plans enable communities to take the lead in producing part of the statutory development plan for the area. Crucially, unlike a parish plan, these neighbourhood plans must be used to determine planning applications in a neighbourhood area.

This is where the flexibility of neighbourhood planning to adapt to time/resource considerations is important. Obviously, a simpler plan with few policies will have less resource implications than a more comprehensive and complex one. Possible sources of help should be identified e.g. the local authority through its duty to support.

What Stage is the Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan at?

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The Neighbourhood Plan Group have recently completed the first stage of the process by designating the ‘neighbourhood area’. This is the first formal step in neighbourhood planning process and the area is designation. The recent consultation into the area boundary has now concluded.

A community consultation exercise will take place in June, July and August to gather thoughts on the main themes and issues that should be addressed in the Plan.

What are the Basic Conditions?

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The Basic Conditions for Neighbourhood Plans are specified by law through the Regulations and are as follows. A Neighbourhood Plan must:

  • must be appropriate having regard to national policy
  • must contribute to the achievement of sustainable development
  • must be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the local area
  • must be compatible with human rights requirements
  • must be compatible with EU obligations.

Neighbourhood Plans must not breach and must be compatible with EU and human rights obligations, including the Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Directive.

What does ‘General Conformity’ mean?

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Cheshire East Council is in the process of adopting a Local Plan to guide the future growth and spatial vision for the Borough. This includes policies relating to the amount of new development (housing and employment) that will be required in Wilmslow over the plan period and where this should go.

Neighbourhood plans should not just restate the council’s plan but should set out the community’s views on the development and use of land in their neighbourhood. This includes setting policies on where development should go. The basic conditions ensure an appropriate balance between communities being able to take control of the future of their areas, whilst ensuring neighbourhood plans do not inappropriately constrain the delivery of important strategic policies for the local area.

General conformity means, the Neighbourhood Plan cannot vary, or override policies in the Cheshire East Local Plan but it can provide additional, complementary policies.

When does the Independent Examination take Place?

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After the plan is prepared and finalised (‘submitted’), it is the responsibility of the local authority to organise and cover the costs of the independent examination and referendum. The independent examiner will be appointed by the local authority with the consent of the Group.

The independent examination will consider the submitted documents and any comments made during the consultation period on the submitted plan proposal. The independent examiner will examine whether the plan meets the ‘Basic Conditions’ and other relevant legal requirements (e.g. consultation).

The independent examiner may recommend that the plan proceed to the referendum stage (i.e. it meets all the legal requirements) or may suggest that modifications are needed to the plan before it can proceed to the referendum. Or they may recommend that it does not proceed to the referendum, if it does not meet the relevant legal requirements. In addition, they may recommend that the referendum area include individuals beyond the boundary of the neighbourhood area.

What is the Referendum?

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Based on current projections, the referendum into the Neighbourhood Plan will take place in September 2017.

If the plan is found to be satisfactory (i.e. complies with the key legal requirements) with modifications if necessary, then the local authority must arrange for the referendum to take place. It must give at least 28 working days’ notice of the referendum before the date of the referendum. The

Group may campaign before the referendum, subject to rules over expenses.

If more than 50% of those voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’, then the council will bring the plan into legal force.

What can the Community Infrastructure Levy be spent on (and by whom)?

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During the lifetime of the Neighbourhood Plan, Cheshire East Council may implement a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). The levy can be used to fund a wide range of infrastructure, including transport, flood defences, schools, hospitals, and other health and social care facilities.

Local authorities must spend the levy on infrastructure needed to support the development of their area, and they will decide what infrastructure is needed. The levy is intended to focus on the provision of new infrastructure and should not be used to remedy pre-existing deficiencies in infrastructure provision unless those deficiencies will be made more severe by new development.

The levy can be used to increase the capacity of existing infrastructure or to repair failing existing infrastructure, if that is necessary to support development.

Local authorities must allocate at least 15% of levy receipts to spend on priorities that should be agreed with the local community in areas where development is taking place. This can increase to a minimum of 25% in where a Neighbourhood Plan exists. This is one key benefit of having a Neighbourhood Plan in place.

What is the neighbourhood portion of the levy?

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In England, communities that draw up a neighbourhood plan and secure the consent of local people in a referendum, will benefit from 25 per cent of the levy revenues arising from the development that takes place in their area. This amount will not be subject to an annual limit. For this to apply, the neighbourhood plan must have been made before a relevant planning permission first permits development.

When is the neighbourhood portion paid?

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Charging authorities and Parish, Town and Community Councils are free to decide the timing of neighbourhood funding payments themselves. However, in the absence of such an agreement, the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations specify that the neighbourhood portion of levy receipts must be paid every six months, at the end of October and the end of April.

What can neighbourhood funding be spent on?

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The neighbourhood portion of the levy can be spent on a wider range of things than the rest of the levy, provided that it meets the requirement to ‘support the development of the area’. The wider definition means that the neighbourhood portion can be spent on things other than infrastructure (as defined in the Community Infrastructure Levy regulations). For example, the pot could be used to fund affordable housing where it would support the development of the area by addressing the demands that development places on the area.

Parish, Town and Community Councils should discuss their priorities with the charging authority during the process of setting the Levy rate(s).

Once the levy is in place, Parish, Town and Community Councils should work closely with their neighbouring councils and the charging authority to agree on infrastructure spending priorities. If the Parish, Town or Community Council shares the priorities of the charging authority, they may agree that the charging authority should retain the neighbourhood funding to spend on that infrastructure. It may be that this infrastructure (e.g. a school) is not in the Parish, Town or Community Council’s administrative area, but will support the development of the area.

If a Parish, Town or Community Council does not spend its levy share within five years of receipt, or does not spend it on initiatives that support the development of the area, the charging authority may require it to repay some or all of those funds to the charging authority.

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