Neighbourhood Planning Guidance

What is a neighbourhood plan?

The Localism Act has introduced new rights and powers for communities and individuals to enable them to get directly involved in planning for their areas.

Neighbourhood planning allows communities to come together through a parish council or neighbourhood forum and produce a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood plans are about allocating land for development and being able to say where new houses, businesses, shops and so on should go and what they should look like.

Once plans are adopted they will become an important consideration when making decisions on planning applications.

Getting Started

The first step is to form a neighbourhood forum to represent the local community, which is in compliance with national standards, and begin identifying issues which the plan will address. The process can only begin once the City Council has confirmed a proposed neighbourhood forum complies with the criteria for forums outlines in the Localism Act (2011).

Preparing a Plan

The Neighbourhood Forum will then begin the process of formulating their ideas and converting this into planning and community policies. the draft plan must be consulted on by the public within the Neighbourhood Plan Area. Once a proposed plan is complete and conforms to the relevant legislation, it then moves to the referendum stage.


It is our responsibility to organise the referendum for a Neighbourhood Development Plan. 

Our Electoral Services team have to publish a ‘Notice of Referendum’ 25 working days before the referendum. 

Neighbourhood Planning Referendums are conducted in accordance with procedures which are similar to those used at local government elections.

The referendum must be in accordance with Schedule 3 and 5 (The Neighbourhood Planning Referendums) of the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations 2012.

An Information statement is published 28 working days before the date of the referendum and copies of the Neighbourhood Planning Documents are displayed at our main offices in St. Aldate’s and at local libraries. 

A document is prepared called ‘information for voters’ and this provides more information about the referendum process. 

Voters living in the Neighbourhood area will receive a poll card similar to those used at elections and this will provide details of when and where they can vote on the Neighbourhood Plan for their local area. 

There are three ways of voting:

  • In person at your local polling station
  • By post
  • By proxy

If more than 50% of people voting in the referendum support the plan or order, then the local planning authority must bring it into force. 

The Neighbourhood Development Plan once adopted will then become part of the Development Plan and we will use the plan to help to decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area.

When a referendum is due, more details will be published on the referendum page for the relevant plan. 

What happens when a Neighbourhood Plan is submitted to the Local Planning Authority

For a Neighbourhood Plan Proposal to be formally submitted to a Local Planning Authority it must include the following: 

  • A map or statement which identifies the area to which the proposed neighbourhood plan relates; 
  • A consultation statement; 
  • The proposed neighbourhood development plan; and 
  • A statement explaining how the proposed neighbourhood plan meets the “basic conditions” 

As soon as possible after receiving a plan proposal that includes the documentation listed above, the local authority must publicise the plan for at least six weeks. 

Next steps

As soon as possible following the end of the consultation on the draft Neighbourhood Plan, the Local Planning Authority must send the plan proposal and any comments made, to an Independent Examiner. 

The Examiner will then consider the representations, whether the plan meets the basic conditions and other relevant legal requirements, and will determine if the plan should be put to a community referendum.  The Examiner may request further information to help their consideration and may conduct the examination through written representations only, or may call a public hearing to examine particular issues in more depth.  

The Examiner has to decide whether the plan meets the “basic conditions” and other legal requirements and produce a report which concludes that: 

  • The plan is submitted to referendum; or 
  • Modifications specified in the report are made and the plan as modified is submitted to referendum; or 
  • The plan is rejected. 

If the Examiner recommends that the Neighbourhood Plan should proceed to a referendum, it is likely that the referendum could take place approximately two or three months after the Examiner’s Report is received. 

More information 

Our local guidance on neighbourhood planning.