Councils empower communities to plan for the future

Proposals to streamline the Neighbourhood Plan process have been approved by Babergh and Mid Suffolk councillors – supporting the councils’ ongoing ambition for residents to help shape development in the districts.

Neighbourhood Plans provide communities with the opportunity to develop a shared vision for their area – ensuring that everyone can have their say on where future growth, to meet Government housing targets, takes place. The plans can also include guidance on what new homes should look like, which open spaces the community would like to preserve and where they’d like new shops or businesses to be located. 

There are many benefits to preparing a plan – once adopted, the parish is then eligible for an uplift in Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds, bringing the total to 25% when new homes are built in their area. Unlike a parish plan or village design statement, an adopted Neighbourhood Plan also holds statutory weight and status in the planning decision process and becomes part of the district’s wider Development Plan.  

To date, around 50 parishes in Babergh and Mid Suffolk have started to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan, with 16 of these being successfully adopted so far. However, both councils felt that the process could be streamlined – encouraging more communities to prepare a plan and helping those currently underway. 

A recommendation was therefore made for Neighbourhood Plans to automatically proceed to referendum after examination – subject to the implementation of any required modifications agreed by the parish and district councils – rather than having to seek approval at Cabinet. 

It was also suggested that post-referendum Neighbourhood Plans – with a majority yes vote – could be formally adopted by the councils’ Chief Executive, again reducing the need for this decision to wait until a formal council meeting took place. 

This will help mitigate potential delays to plans progressing due to external factors, such as Covid-19 and pre-election periods – supporting the councils’ continued commitment to Neighbourhood Plans being adopted in a timely manner to enable communities to start reaping the rewards of having a plan in place.

Proposals came before Babergh councillors last Tuesday (21 September) and Mid Suffolk’s Full Council meeting on Friday (23 September) and received unanimous approval, with changes set to be implemented immediately. 

Cllr Clive Arthey, Babergh cabinet member for planning commented: “Having a Neighbourhood Plan enables communities to shape growth in their area and preserve important local open space – benefitting local residents and supporting our ongoing vision for Babergh to be an attractive, successful and connected place for people to live.”

“Our council doesn’t underestimate the time and effort involved in preparing these plans and I am delighted that we are streamlining the process, as we continue to support any community wishing to come forward and prepare a plan.”

Cllr David Burn, Mid Suffolk cabinet member for planning said: “A positively prepared Neighbourhood Plan can add real value at local level – empowering communities to have their say on where future development takes place and what this looks like.

“I fully support the changes to the process, which will not only reduce officer workload – enabling us to make best use of council resource – but will also make it quicker and easier for plans to advance to referendum and be successfully adopted.”

A full list of all adopted Neighbourhood Plans and those currently underway can be found on the councils’ website.

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