What is a Neighbourhood Plan and how is linked to National Planning Policy?

Braintree District Council is asking residents to submit their views on the final draft of the Kelvedon Neighbourhood Plan. Once finished and adopted by Kelvedon, this plan will set out the planning policies for us here in Kelvedon.

But how does our Neighbourhood Plan fit into National Planning Policy, and how is it linked to the Local Plan (and what is a Local Plan!?)

National planning policy

The Government sets out its planning policies in the National Planning Policy Framework (external website) (NPPF).  The NPPF sets out government planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied by local authorities (Braintree District Council)

Key policy topics include:

  • Number of properties to be built across the country
  • how local plans and planning decisions should be made
  • how housing and employment should be delivered
  • approaches to transport, the Green Belt, and the environment
  • addressing matters on climate change, flooding, and the natural and historic environment.

What is a Local Plan?

Local Plans are exactly that, local. They are prepared by the Local Planning Authority – in our case Braintree District Council (BDC) – and sets out the framework for the future development of the area for the next 15 or so years.  They must be in line with National Planning Policy Framework, and positively prepared and justified.

Local plans are also the starting point for considering whether planning applications should be approved and defines:

  • the priorities for the area
  • strategic policies
  • the framework for Neighbourhood Plans
  • land allocations
  • infrastructure requirements
  • housing needs
  • requirements for safeguarding the environment
  • measures for adapting to climate change

Here in Kelvedon, our Local Plan is the responsibility of BDC.

BDC’s Local Plan is still in development and is written in two Sections which, between them, make up the planning policy for Braintree District.

Section 1 is a strategic plan for North Essex. It was adopted by Braintree District Council in February 2021. It is shared with Colchester and Tendring Councils and covers all three authorities.

Section 2 contains all planning policies, maps and sites for development, housing, employment, regeneration etc within Braintree District Council. The Section 2 Examination beginning on 6 July 2021, where Inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be assessing the soundness of the Plan prior to it being adopted by BDC.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

Neighbourhood Plans set out a vision for an area and should contain planning policies for the use and development of land. A Neighbourhood Plan should be developed to help guide development, rather than to prevent it. Policies should cover local issues rather than strategic issues. For example, a Plan could cover where new homes, shops or offices should go and what green spaces should be protected.

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the neighbourhood area (in our case, Kelvedon) – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the Local Planning Authority
  • A powerful tool to help the community get the right types of development, housing and amenities.

Neighbourhood Plans should be aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area as set out in the Local Plan. This includes the number of new homes and jobs needed in the area and requirement for infrastructure and facilities. Crucially, this means that a Neighbourhood Plan cannot propose less growth than required by the Local Plan, but it can shape this growth.

The Neighbourhood Plan for Kelvedon is the result of many, many hours of hard work by a volunteer team who consulted with residents on what they want to see from development here in Kelvedon, and what we need as a village.

In 2018 residents of Kelvedon were asked for their views on the policies that had been included in the Neighbourhood Plan. As a result of this consultation and the feedback received, and changes since made to the National Planning Framework, the draft Neighbourhood Plan was amended and submitted to Braintree District Council. BDC is now responsible for getting this essential document across the line, and is asking residents to submit their final comments on the Neighbourhood Plan before this can be Examined by an Inspector and then taken to a village referendum.  If this is successful, the Neighbourhood Plan will be adopted by BDC as part of its planning policy for Kelvedon.