Neighbourhood plans

What is a neighbourhood plan?

A neighbourhood plan is a community led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. Neighbourhood plans have a different status to other community led plans. Subject to a few basic conditions they will become legally binding and will become part of the development plan for the area. These conditions include:

  • they must have approval through a local referendum
  • they must take account of national planning policy
  • they must conform generally to the needs for strategic development set out in existing Local Plans (previously the Local Development Framework)
  • they cannot provide less development than existing Local Plans but could propose additional development if it was appropriate

Making the decision to prepare a neighbourhood plan

The process of producing a neighbourhood plan will bring together residents, businesses, landowners and local groups. These groups will need to work together to build a consensus and plan the future of their local area.

Once a community has made the decision to progress with a neighbourhood plan, the first step is for the relevant town or parish council to make an application to the district or borough council to designate a neighbourhood area.

Download the:

A summary of the key stages in neighbourhood planning

How can we help?

Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council provide support and assistance to any community that wants to produce a neighbourhood plan, but it will not control the process which has to be a community led. Nevertheless, the regulations require us to undertake statutory tasks at certain points in the process in order to assist and support the community. Proposals for neighbourhood plans which have proven community support, through a local referendum, will need to be brought in to force by the local planning authority.

Once a neighbourhood area is designated, each parish will be allocated a planning officer to provide one to one support and technical advice to parishes throughout the production of the neighbourhood plan.

Neighbourhood plans should be in conformity with strategic policies within the development plans for Forest Heath or St Edmundsbury.

Service level agreement

We have developed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for any parish undertaking neighbourhood planning in either Forest Heath or St Edmundsbury. The purpose of this agreement is to confirm:

  • how the councils will undertake its statutory duties including timescales for responses
  • the level and extent of the technical advice and guidance that the councils will provide
  • how the town or parish council will aim to progress the neighbourhood development plan.

Towns and parishes will be offered the opportunity to sign the SLA following the designation of their neighbourhood area. A signed agreement will give certainty and commitment to the neighbourhood plan from both parties but it is not compulsory for parishes to sign up. Download the service level agreements for both St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District councils:

Further information