What sort of ‘plan’?
The first thing to decide is which sort of ‘plan’ is right for you.
You may decide to start by doing a record of what buildings and spaces you already have in your area which can be one of the building blocks of a Neighbourhood Plan
This could lead on to a discussion of what is good and bad and what could be changed in the area to improve it.
This will start to build up the evidence base for drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan. This process is sometimes called a SWOT analysis, standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats but there are other similar models.
The characteristics of an area’s buildings, roads and open spaces give the area its special character. This is the basis of a ‘Character Appraisal’ Character Appraisals are being carried out on all Bristol’s conservation areas and the methodology can be used for other areas too.
You may decide that there is one particular site that is likely to change and by drawing up a Site Brief you can set out what the community would like to happen on that site when it is developed for instance, what aspects of the site need to be protected or what opportunities to improve the wider area could be taken when the site is developed, like allowing views through or into the site, or access through the site to make better links for walking, cycling or wildlife.
A guide called Choices and Choosing, written for CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) Gloucestershire by the Localism Network sets out most of the options.
The guide takes you through the differences between various planning exercises and describes the way in which each are most effective.
It lists a number of options which can be used as building blocks towards a Neighbourhood Development Plan
- Community Plans
- Local distinctiveness studies
- Community design statements
- Landscape Assessment
- Local landscape assessment
- Conservation Area Character Assessment
- Local Plan
- Neighbourhood development plan
- Concept statements.
The guide also talks about ways in which you can get involved in development through the pre application community involvement process, planning performance agreements, Neighbourhood Development Orders and the Community Right to Buy.
You could choose to do a set of Development Principles which your group will use to respond to development proposals in the area. This would be appropriate for areas with limited opportunities for larger developments.
Drawing up a Neighbourhood Development Plan
Under the Localism Act 2011, communities were given the power to draw up their own Neighbourhood (Development) Plans which would then be adopted as policy by the Local Planning Authority.
The Act refers to Neighbourhood Plans but this has led to confusion because not all Neighbourhood Plans are spatial plans, that is about building and developing the area; in Bristol therefore we refer to the plans as Neighbourhood Development Plans – NDP.
In Bristol, the local authority area is not broken down into separate parishes so there is no body already in place to draw up a NDP for an area. The community therefore has to identify the area which it would like the NDP to cover and be confirmed as the appropriate body to carry out the task ie the Neighbourhood Planning Forum NPF.
A Neighbourhood Development Plan, using powers in the Localism Act, has statutory ‘weight‘, that means it is a planning policy document which is an important consideration when future development proposals for the area are assessed.
However it may not be right for your area, if you cannot identify sites where development should take place. It is not an appropriate tool to protect areas from development, unless areas where development is acceptable can also be identified.