The 2011 Localism Act gave local communities the opportunity to have a say in how they would like their local environment to look in the future. By creating a Neighbourhood Plan, a community can ensure that their views will be listened to.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area. A neighbourhood plan is about the use and development of land and 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. It may deal with a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues (such as housing, employment, heritage and transport) or it may focus on one or two issues only.
A Neighbourhood Plan will be part of the statutory development plan for the area, if sucessful at referendum. This statutory status gives Neighbourhood Plans far more weight than some other local documents, such as parish plans, community plans and village design statements.
A Neighbourhood Plan must comply with European and national legislation and must have have appropriate regard to national policy and be in general conformity with existing strategic local planning policy. It should not promote less development than that identified in the development plan for the local area (such as new housing alloctions). It can allow greater growth levels. Also, it can specify policies and guidance on how new development should be designed, orientated and located. Neighbourhood Plans can be a powerful tool in shaping the development of a neighbourhood. The timeframe for the Neighbourhood Plan is for communities to decide, for example whether it is a 5, 10, 15 or 20-year plan
Once a Neighbourhood plan has been completed, it will have to be submitted to the local authority and then be subjected to an independent examination. This will make sure that the proper legal process has been followed and that the plan meets the basic conditions, including general conformity with strategic local policy. Neighbourhood Plans are subject to a public referendum. Once plans have been subjected to an independent examination and any necessary modifications made to ensure they meet important legal requirements, it is necessary to gain a more than 50% ‘yes’ vote of those voting in a public referendum in order to bring them into force.
Neighbourhood Plans carry legal weight in the planning system and once adopted, they form part of the Colchester Borough Local Plan