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News & opinion

26 MAR 2018

New guidance on neighbourhood plan examinations launched

New guidance on neighbourhood plan examinations have been published.

The guidance was prepared by a working party formed under the umbrella of the Neighbourhood Plan Independent Examiner Referral Service (NPIERS). The working party is chaired by a senior planning Barrister and includes experienced examiners and representatives from RICS, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Intelligent Plans and Examinations (IPE), Locality and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

While development plans prepared by local authorities lay out a vision of future for a wide area, the needs of individual towns and villages within that area will often vary. Neighbourhood planning enables ordinary people living in towns or parishes to influence the development of the area where they live and work.  

They are a way of empowering local communities to decide matters such as: where new homes, shops, offices should be built, and what they will look like. Neighbourhood plans enable communities to classify and safeguard the future of important local green spaces.

Neighbourhood plans

Neighbourhood plans are usually written by town or parish councils. Where there is no town or parish council, neighbourhood plans can be written by specially created neighbourhood forums. Once a local authority is happy that a neighbourhood plan has been prepared correctly, it will arrange for an independent examination, before putting it forward to a local referendum. If the referendum supports the neighbourhood plan, then the local authority must adopt it as part of its overall development plan for the wider area.  

Independent examination is a crucial part of the neighbourhood plan process. The increasing number of neighbourhood plans being developed has underlined the need for communities preparing plans, and those who examine plans, to have up-to-date practical advice and information. 

In response to this need, the new guidance has been prepared specifically to explain why and how neighbourhood plans are examined before they can be adopted by local authorities, and incorporated into their plans for local areas. 

The guidance is in two parts

  • Part 1 is intended primarily for parish and town councils, and neighbourhood forums. It provides information about the steps they should take to check and test their plans before they are submitted for independent examination. Part 1 also explains the scope and limits of an independent examiner’s duties. 
  • Part 2 is intended primarily for independent examiners. It provides technical information to help them to be consistent in how they deal with examinations, and how they write their reports. 

A technical glossary of terms used in the guidance is also included, along with links to other documents mentioned in the text. 

The guidance and more information can be found on the NPIERS webpage.