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Neighbourhood planning

Neighbourhood planning is a way for communities to take a proactive approach to deciding the future of the places where they live and work.

It is not a legal requirement but a right, which communities can use to determine the development and use of land and to make other improvements to their neighbourhood, including the development of homes, shops, offices, infrastructure and their design.

This can be done through a neighbourhood plan, a neighbourhood development order or a community right to build order, all of which follow similar processes.

In Cambridge, a neighbourhood area and a neighbourhood forum has to be designated before the neighbourhood plan can be produced.

No draft neighbourhood plans have yet been submitted to us.

The neighbourhood plan

The neighbourhood plan can:

  • propose more development than the local plan
  • identify the most suitable sites for development
  • help to determine the type and design of new development    

The neighbourhood plan cannot:

  • propose less growth than in the Local Plan
  • prevent any development from ever taking place in an area
  • be prepared without community input and support
  • be in conflict with local, national or EU policies

Why undertake a neighbourhood plan?

A neighbourhood plan helps set out a community's vision for their area over ten, fifteen, twenty years. Once agreed, the neighbourhood plan has the same legal status as the local plan, so decisions on planning applications must take the neighbourhood plan into consideration. Communities can put in place planning policies that will help deliver that vision or grant planning permission for the development they want to see.

Who and what is involved?

In Cambridge, community groups interested in preparing a Neighbourhood Plan will need to be formally established as “neighbourhood forums” for a specified area. 

As the Local Planning Authority, Cambridge City Council supports the Forum through the neighbourhood planning process, a summary of which follows:

1. Designating a Neighbourhood Area

  • Prospective Neighbourhood Forums that are thinking of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan must decide what area their Plan will cover.  This ‘Neighbourhood Area’ must be designated by the City Council
  • The Forum applies to the City Council to have its proposed Neighbourhood Area designated. This is done by completing the application form.
  • The City Council must carry out consultation of at least 6 weeks on the proposed Neighbourhood Area.  Comments received are considered by the Council and, if appropriate, the Area is designated.

2. Designation the Neighbourhood Forum

Prospective Neighbourhood Forums must meet certain requirements in order to be designated.  They must:

  • Have a written constitution;
  • a map identifying the boundary of the area covered by the Forum (normally the designated/prospective Neighbourhood Area);
  • a membership statement that demonstrates that membership is drawn from different places within the Neighbourhood Area, and from different sections of the community. It should also explain what steps have been taken in order to attempt to secure membership of individuals from different places in the area, and from different sections of the community; and
  • a list of at least 21 members of the Forum detailing their name, address and status within the area.

The Forum applies to the City Council to be designated as the “appropriate body” for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for the area. This is done by completing the application form.

The City Council must carry out consultation of at least 6 weeks on the proposed Neighbourhood Forum.  Comments received are considered by the Council and, if appropriate, the Forum is designated.

3. Preparing a Neighbourhood Plan

  • The Forum prepares the draft Neighbourhood Plan with the support of the Council who will agree what assistance and advice will be provided.
  • The Forum carries out a 6 week pre-submission consultation on their draft Neighbourhood Plan.
  • The Forum considers consultation responses and where appropriate amends Plan.
  • The Forum submits the Neighbourhood Plan with supporting documents to the City Council. City Council check for legal compliance.
  • If compliant, City Council carries out community engagement for a minimum of 6 weeks.

4. Examination of Neighbourhood Plan

  • An independent planning inspector is employed by the Council to carry out an examination on the submitted Neighbourhood Plan. The examiner will check that the Plan meets a number of ‘basic conditions’ which are set out in the National Planning Practice Guidance (concerning such matters as consistency with national planning policy, sustainable development, and conformity to Local Development Plan strategic policies etc.).
  • The examiner’s report will be sent to the Council who must publish it on their website.
  • The Council considers the report and its recommendations.  The City Council decide whether to amend the Plan to take account of the changes suggested by the examiner.
  • Council must decide whether the Plan meets all of the basic conditions before it can submit the Neighbourhood Plan to a local referendum.

5. Referendum and Neighbourhood Plan Made

  • Referendum undertaken by City Council and results declared.
  • If supported by simple majority of those voting, and compatible with EU obligations and Convention rights, the Neighbourhood Plan is 'made' (adopted) by the Local Planning Authority (the City Council).

Getting started

General guidance and information on neighbourhood planning is available on the government funded My Community website.

Neighbourhood planning

We have produced a guidance note to help facilitate what is meant by neighbourhood planning, and an addendum to our statement of community involvement setting out available support:

Support for neighbourhood planning in Cambridge is also available from our Planning Policy team.

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