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Last revised January 17, 2018


  1. What is a Neighbourhood Development Plan?
  2. Drawing up a Neighbourhood Development Plan
  3. Other forms of Neighbourhood Plan
  4. Neighbourhood Development Plan checklist
  5. BCC / Planning Aid Bristol workshops, May – July 2014.
  6.  Links to advice and guidance.

What is a Neighbourhood Development Plan?

a document / formal statement/ book that includes:

What the community wants to see happen in the area

    •  the vision,  issues and opportunities for change

Where it could happen

    • the sites and places where change can be encouraged

How it could happen

    •  what those changes could be
    •  options for and ultimately allocations of land uses
    •  the policy encouragement and constraints on change

When it could happen

    • an idea of time frame


    • the plan can help set some principles for change in the area which development must meet


    • It must be based on evidence of need

Projects to make the place better

  •  identified by the community; these can be shown as opportunities in the Plan

Community: Making the plan should include everyone

Remember: it must help development happen and should be realistic about the opportunities for change

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, this is called the Neighbourhood Planning Area NPA, and be confirmed as the appropriate body  to carry out the task ie the Neighbourhood Planning Forum NPF.

Neighbourhood Development Plan NDP, 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.

Requirements for designating a Neighbourhood Planning Area and becoming a Neighbourhood Planning Forum in Bristol are on the BCC website.

Any group or person considering applying should discuss this with the BCC strategic planning officer before making the application.

  • Agree NPA boundaries.
    • No two groups may cover the same area, so the boundaries of a NPA must be agreed so that adjoining communities are neither excluded from involvement in the plan nor included against their wishes, for instance if they wish to do their own plan.
    • The area plan will be subject to a referendum in order to become policy. The people within the area plan will all have a vote and the process for setting up a vote for an area in the city has yet to be tested. The city is divided into wards and then subdivided into super output areas, and all census information and voting processes are based on those areas. Aligning a boundary with those may make evidence collecting and referendum voting easier. However this is not a requirement.
    • Local Ward councillors will be involved; there may be advantages in considering ward boundaries when setting out the NPA, but this is not a requirement.
  • Set up a Neighbourhood Planning Forum
    • A minimum of 21 people are needed.
    • Those 21 should be ‘representative’ of the community ie they should come from across the whole area, be from both local workers and residents, as well as local ward councillors, from different sections of the community eg from different ethnic groups, age etc, or a consultation strategy which ensures that all those sectors of the community are involved in drawing up the plans.
    • the NPF must be set up to promote or improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of the area that has been designated and the purpose of the organisation reflects (in general terms) the character of the area.

BCC has set out guidance on applying to be the NPF

Bristol City Council Neighbourhood Planning webpage

National Planning Practice Guidance: Neighbourhood Planning

see also the links at bottom of this page.

Other forms of Neighbourhood Plan

A Neighbourhood Development Plan 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.

If you chose to do a Neighbourhood Plan, but not to become a Neighbourhood Planning Forum and take your plan to public referendum under the provisions of the Localism Act 2011, your plan will not be a statutory planning document, with the most ‘weight’.

However by ensuring that the community is engaged in consultation on the document, that  local ward members are involved during this process and that the local Neighbourhood Partnership is involved, the residents’ planning group doing the plan can get the Neighbourhood Partnership to endorse the final plan document, which will increase the ‘weight’ or importance the planning officers give to the document when making planning decisions.

Neighbourhood Development Plan checklist

Agree what area you will cover:

You will need to establish the boundaries of your area. This must be done in conversation with the community as well as with the councillors and planning officers. It is important that your area does not include an area that wants to do its own plan or leave out an area that wants to be included. This is the start of your consultation process.


The Neighbourhood Planning Forum will have to show how they have consulted the wider community in drawing up their plans. Start consultation early. The earlier that people are involved the better able they are to have an effect on the plan and the more they will feel that they have ‘ownership’ of the plan. This will be important when they vote at referendum stage. If they have not been involved in drawing up the plan they may not support it. See Old Market Quarter website for a description of their consultation process using the Wish Cart.

Involve everyone:

All sections and groups in the community need to be given the chance to get involved. The NPF should make sure that they consider how each of these groups can get involved. Identifying people who can talk to schools, community groups and organisations, business owners and local traders, BME groups etc is important to get right early in the process. BCC Neighbourhood Development Officers may be able to help you with this. You will need to give evidence to the inspector how you have done this. Keep a detailed record of your consultation processes and responses.

Showcase your consultation:

Consider a range of different methods of consultation. Not everyone uses a computer or comes to meetings. Use local newsletters, posters in shops etc, as well as emails and websites. Go to events where there are people already gathering eg school gates, mother and toddler groups, local shopping centres, community meetings, Neighbourhood Partnership forum meetings.

Learn from the consultation:

You will discover other people do not have the same view of the neighbourhood that you do. This needs to inform your plan. The wider the consultation the more you will learn about the way that the wider community feels about the area, and the better the plan will reflect the aspirations of the whole community, not just the 21 people in the NPF.

Draw up your plan:

This does not have to be done by a professional planning consultant. It is a community plan and can be a simple document. There is some help from organisations to help with drawing up the plan, and some funding, but it is not the intention that the plan is a professionally produced document. The more clear and concise that it is, the less confusion about what the intention of each policy/ site proposal is, the less potential will be for lawyers to argue against compliance when the plan is adopted.

Draw up your Policies:

Plan and policies have to be in general conformity with national and local policy. Check the Bristol Local plan documents: Core Strategy and Sites Allocations and Development Management Polices, and the National Planning Policy Framework. Do not duplicate any policies that are already in local or national policy.

Keep the planning officers involved:

Depending on what level of assistance your group has been identified as eligible for (see BCC page for details), planning officers may attend your meetings if invited. It is a good idea to keep them aware of all discussions you are having particularly with developers and if you are proposing development on BCC held land. They can help advise on who to consult and can put you in touch with some groups. They can identify sources of funding, assistance and information. They will do an Enviromental Assessment if this is necessary. They can also help publicise the consultation. They may also advise on the scope of policies and help with where there is duplication or discrepancies between your policies and local or national policy.

Use the guidance and learn from other groups:

A number of bodies have drawn up guidance on how to do Neighbourhood Plans. Training events and discussion groups are also useful sources of help and information. See links below. Contact them and find out what help they can give and at what stage. See also Neighbourhood Plans that have already been adopted.


BCC / Planning Aid Bristol workshops, May – July 2014.

Planning Aid England and Bristol City Council ran a series of Bristol Neighbourhood Planning Master Classes.

The Master Classes were “a series of FREE training sessions packed full of presentations, workshops, updates and top tips exploring key elements of the Neighbourhood Development Plan process tailored to Forums in the Bristol area”.

The programme of Master Classes, included training on the following:

  • 30th April: Consultation – Engaging your community in the Neighbourhood Plan
  • 14th May: Policy writing for Neighbourhood Planning
  • 28th May: Examination – Meeting the Basic Conditions
  • 18th June: Housing policies – Delivering homes through Neighbourhood Planning
  • 2nd July: Sustainability – Meeting the requirements for Neighbourhood Plans

Papers from the Master Classes are available at the bottom of this page by kind permission of Planning Aid and BCC.

Bristol City Council Neighbourhood Planning guidance page

BCC Neighbourhood Planning Leaflet

Neighbourhood Planning guidance from Planning Aid England.
A suite of guidance documents on many aspects of the process.

Neighbourhood Planning Video Tutorials 
5 new video tutorials by Locality setting out the process

Community Led Planning guidance
-ACRE: Action with Communities in Rural England Guidance

Plan LoCal Guidance on how to use the Neighbourhood Planning Process to produce Low Carbon infrastructure
-CSE: Centre for Sustainable Energy

Your Place, your plan Basic guide to why to do a Neighbourhood Plan
-TCPA: Town and Country Planning Association

A guide on Neighbourhood Planning for Ward Councillors
-PAS: Planning Advisory Service

Advice and updates on Neighbourhood Plans:
-PAS: Planning Advisory Service

Advice for groups interested in doing their own Neighbourhood Plan:
– Neighbourhood Planning Forum set up by Planning Aid and RTPI

Neighbourhood Planning resources page
– Links to advice, case studies and neighbourhood plans

How to shape where you live:
– a CPRE guide to neighbourhood planning

Quick Guide on Neighbourhood Plans:
– guide by Locality

Roadmap Guide to Neighbourhood Planning
– expanded guide by Locality with worksheets and maps Updated April 2016

Guide to writing Planning Policies
by Tony Burton from Locality

Neighbourhoods Prompt Questions and other guidance
– The Glasshouse

The power of the plan
Carnegie UK Trust

General Advice and updates on planning:  for councils, councillors and the community:
-Planning Advisory Service

information on Planning Reform
-PAS: Planning Advisory Service

BCC/Planning Aid Masterclass papers.

14-06-18 Housing policy summaries

42 KB  July 2, 2014

14-06-18 Census Definitions

32 KB  July 2, 2014

14-06-18 Workshop questions

32 KB  July 2, 2014

14-06-18 NP Workshop

2.76 MB  July 2, 2014

14-05-14 Policy writing Bristol

1.24 MB  July 2, 2014

14-04-30 Reg 14 Consultation

1.08 MB  July 2, 2014

14-04-30 Our Place

11.41 MB  July 2, 2014