How to prepare a neighbourhood plan

What is a neighbourhood plan?

  • The neighbourhood plan is a locally specific part of the detailed 'development plan' for an area. Breckland Council produces a 'Local Plan', which forms the other strategic part of the 'development plan' for the area. Together, they act as the main guide for making decisions about planning applications and are used in planning appeals. 
  • A neighbourhood plan guides the use and development of land, such as the location, type, design, location and mix of new development.
  • It must take account of national planning policy and conform with the strategic policies of the Local Plan.
  • A neighbourhood plan may not stop or propose less development than the overarching Breckland Local Plan.

Who can prepare a neighbourhood plan?

In Breckland, parish and town councils (legally 'qualifying bodies') have the option to produce a plan, where Breckland Council has to produce a Local Plan.

How are neighbourhood plans prepared?

Step one - Making a neighbourhood area application

  • The qualifying body sets out the proposed area and an explanation for it, and justification for why the group submitting the application wishes to be a qualifying body (Further information on applying to Breckland Council).
  • Where appropriate we will publish the application for six weeks and invite comments.
  • We make and publicise our informed decision.

Who can be a qualifying body?

In Breckland only a parish council or town council (or group of local councils) can be designated as a 'Qualifying Body' that has the powers to use the neighbourhood planning powers.

Step two - Publication of proposals for the plan

The key principle of neighbourhood planning is that proposals are supported by local people. The qualifying body will be expected to demonstrate that local people have had the opportunity to influence the content of the plan. Good local engagement is important. There are also formal specific consultation requirements.

For a minimum of six weeks the qualifying body (that has previously made a successful area application) has to:

  • Publicise proposals of what's going to be included in the neighbourhood plan, and bring it to the attention of those who live, work or operate businesses in the area.
  • Publish contact details for representations to be made.
  • Consult any statutory consultees.
  • Take account of the issues raised through consultation and adjust their plan as appropriate.

Checklist for pre-submission consultation (PDF) [96KB] (opens new window)

Guidance note on consultation (PDF) [379KB] (opens new window)

Strategic Environmental Assessment

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) assessment looks at the positive and negative environmental issues that your neighbourhood plan might have on local environmental assets. All Plans which may have a significant  effect on designated European Sites are required to undertake a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA).

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) may be required if:

  • A Habitat Regulations Assessment is required.
  • A neighbourhood plan allocates sites for development (that haven't been appraised as part of the Local Plan).
  • A neighbourhood plan area contains sensitive environmental assets that may be affected by proposed policies.

Guidance note on Strategic Environmental Assessment and Habitat Regulation Assessment (PDF) [248KB] (opens new window)

Step three - Submission of a draft Plan

The group then submit the following to us, which we will publish for six weeks:

  • A map of the area.
  • The draft plan.
  • A statement outlining how the proposal meet the basic conditions (see below).
  • A consultation statement (who was consulted and how; the issues raised and how they were resolved).

Basic conditions of a neighbourhood plan

  • A plan must have appropriate regard to national policy.
  • It must conform to the strategic elements of the Local Plan.
  • It must be compatible with EU obligations - for example, a Strategic Environmental Assessment may need to be carried out if the plan is likely to have significant environmental effects.
  • It must also be compatible with human rights obligations.
  • It should be based on up to date and robust evidence.

Strategic details policy list (PDF) [208KB] (opens new window)

Step four - The independent examination

We will check that all the necessary documents have been submitted and the process followed and if satisfied an examiner will be appointed by us (in agreement with the Qualifying Body). The examiner will look at whether the proposals meet the regulatory requirements (for example: has the consultation been adequate) and whether the basic conditions (detailed above) have been met. A report will be produced.

Step five - The Referendum

We will publish the examiners report and decision on our website, and then hold a referendum which will establish the level of community support for the plan. Further information on the Referendum (PDF) [244KB] (opens new window) . A simple majority of those voting in the referendum will have to be in favour for the neighbourhood plan to be 'made' (adopted).

Other guidance notes

Last updated: 27/03/2023 10:17:33