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Neighbourhood Planning Toolkit

If you’re thinking of making a Neighbourhood Plan, or you’re already doing so, our toolkit will guide you through the process, step by step.


Step one - is a neighbourhood plan for you?

Before you begin, you should make sure a Neighbourhood Plan will do what you want it to. You may find a community led plan is more suitable right now. They have the added advantage that you can use them to help create a neighbourhood plan in the future.

To see some examples of what the different types of plans are for, and how a community led plan can help you create a neighbourhood plan, take a look at this diagram.

How to make a decision

Address the issues and opportunities your community faces. Answer questions like where are we now? Where do we want to be? How do we get there? To help you do this, you can:

  • gather information about your area
  • assess your area’s strengths and weaknesses
  • draft a vision statement for your community
  • identify a series of objectives.

This is known as ‘scoping’.


Look at what other communities are doing, especially ones similar to yours.


The Localism Act 2011

Plain English guide to the Localism Act 2011

Step two - what do you want to do?

Most of you are here to read about how to put together a Neighbourhood Development Plan, which is what we refer to as a Neighbourhood Plan.  But you can also use this toolkit to help create a neighbourhood development order or a community right to build order, because the processes are very similar. Here’s a quick summary of what each of them is for:

Neighbourhood development plan

Use it to set out a vision for your area and to provide planning policies to decide what types of new homes and businesses should be built, where and what they should look like.

Neighbourhood development plans must:

  • contribute to sustainable development
  • generally conform with strategic policies in our local plans
  • adhere to national planning policy and guidance
  • be compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements

If your neighbourhood development plan meets these basic conditions and is approved at a local referendum, we will adopt it and use it to help decide planning applications the area. You shouldn’t try to use these plans as a way to prevent development.

Neighbourhood development order

You can use this to grant permission for certain types of development for a particular site or area.  It means a development can go ahead in that area without making a planning application, as long as they comply with the current policies and regulations.

Community right to build order

These can give community organisations the right to build small-scale developments on specific sites without needing planning permission. You can use them to encourage buildings that benefit the community like affordable housing, playgrounds or a village shops.

Step three - getting started

How we will help

We carry out a lot of the formal processes, like organising the referendum. We will also:

  • explain the process
  • advise you on how to conduct consultations
  • explain what evidence you need to provide
  • provide a ‘critical friend’ role whilst you draft the plan
  • attend your neighbourhood planning meetings when invited, to provide advice and support
  • review your draft documents to make them meet the basic conditions
  • provide advice about funding for towns, larger villages and smaller villages
  • provide advice and support dealing with the media, and publicising your work.

Setting up your neighbourhood plan group

The first step is identifying the ‘qualifying body’ that will be responsible for submitting the Neighbourhood Plan. The qualifying body is either a parish/town council or a neighbourhood forum. Communities covered by a parish meeting need to set up a neighbourhood planning forum if they wish to prepare a neighbourhood plan. More information on setting up a neighbourhood planning forum can be found here.

The neighbourhood plan group usually includes town or parish councillors as well as local people with useful skills and knowledge. To give your plan the best chance of success in the referendum, it should represent the whole community, so you should involve the wider community from the start. Examples of community organisations that might join the group include:

  • local businesses and chambers of commerce
  • schools and health centres
  • local residents and other community groups.

This is known as a ‘steering group’.

Take a look at our guidance note about setting up a neighbourhood plan steering group.

Write a ‘terms of reference’ so the objectives of the group are clear  – here is an example you can adapt for your steering group.


The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 

The Neighbourhood Planning (General) (Amendment) Regulations 2015


How to set up a neighbourhood forum

Step four - setting the area your plan will cover

Send us an application to designate the area you want your neighbourhood plan to cover. Your application should:

  • contain a map clearly showing the proposed neighbourhood area
  • explain why the area is appropriate for neighbourhood planning purposes.

Here’s a template application form.

You can also read our information about mapping services.

Step five - getting funding

Once you’ve successfully designated your neighbourhood plan area, you can access funding and technical support directly from the government.  

The types of funding available are:

  • Basic grant funding £10,000
  • Additional grant funding £8,000
  • Affordable Housing for Sale Grant Funding £10,000

You can find out more information on government funding here.

If you have more complex issues than most areas, you can also apply for specific technical support.

Other Funds

You can also apply for up to £10,000 of Big Lottery funding.

Step six - preparing your plan

Lead officer

Once we’ve heard from you with details of the designated neighbourhood plan area, we will also assign you a case officer who specialises in neighbourhood plans. This person is your first point of contact and will:

  • help and advise you throughout the process, right up until the successful adoption of your plan
  • help you create your project plan if necessary
  • come along to steering group meetings when invited to offer advice and guidance, with the benefit of experience from working with many other groups creating neighbourhood plans.

Getting to work

If you already have a community led plan, it can help you with some of the first steps that follow. Otherwise, preparing your plan will involve:

  • gathering information about the plan area
  • finding out the local community’s aspirations and priorities
  • drafting a vision for the area
  • setting out a clear purpose for a plan including identifying goals or objectives you want the plan to achieve
  • drafting planning policies to help deliver the objectives of the plan
  • publicising the plan locally, inviting comments from people who live, work and carry out business in the area.

Gathering evidence and opinion

You need to gather reliable and up to date information and evidence. You will need to gather detailed evidence like local housing need but it is useful to start with the evidence we’ve collected for our Local Plans.

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning policy evidence page

Vale of White Horse District Council’s evidence – Local Plan Examination Library

You must engage and consult with your local community – this must be widespread and inclusive and should continue throughout the development of the plan.

How to create a plan

To meet the minimum legal requirements, you may need to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (an SEA) – we will carry out an ‘SEA screening’ early on to see if you need to. Please complete this screening questionnaire.  If you do need one, you may find this example of an SEA table useful.

We recommend you carry out a simple review of how the policies you are drafting will affect the social, environmental and economic aspects of your community.  This is checking the ‘sustainability’ of your plan – it will make sure your plan meets the basic conditions and will satisfy the independent examiner.

The Neighbourhood Development Plan Policy table  shows the range of topic areas covered by neighbourhood plans across South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse District.  The table also signposts the reader towards examples of neighbourhood planning policies for each topic area. 


’DIY SA’ sustainability appraisal (including SEA) of neighbourhood plans – by Levett-Therivel sustainability consultants and URS Scott Wilson, August 2011 

Understand if your plan requires a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

How to write a neighbourhood plan in a climate emergency

Useful biodiversity resources for parishes and NP groups:

TVERC also offer a specialised service for this purpose too, in getting the basic information together:

Step seven - submitting your plan

  • Before you can submit the plan to us, you need to carry out a six-week public consultation. You need to publicise it so it can be seen by people who live, work and run businesses in your area. Your case officer can advise you who else you need to consult, like Historic England or the Environment Agency.
  • You need to ask other interested parties to read and comment on your plan – that includes neighbouring parish councils, significant landowners and local community organisations, like chambers of commerce, civic societies and local trusts.
  • You can publish the plan on your website, our website or both; and you can put copies in public buildings, like libraries, council offices; and in local shops and businesses.
  • It may be useful to summarise the plan in a leaflet and/or on display boards.
  • Publicise where people can view the plan, how they can make comments and what the deadline is.
  • Consider the comments you receive and amend the plan accordingly.
  • Prepare a brief report to summarise the comments you received and show if and how the plan has been modified in response.

Once you’ve taken your community’s comments into account and you’re satisfied with the plan, you can then submit it to us.


Step eight - independent examination

We will check your plan meets the legal requirements. If your draft plan does not meet the basic conditions and cannot be modified, we may refuse to accept the submitted plan.

Otherwise, we’ll then pay for and make the necessary arrangements for an independent examiner to check the plan, in agreement with you. The examiner:

  • will decide whether the plan meets the basic conditions and legal requirements
  • will write a report detailing their findings and will make recommendations about the plan, including whether it’s ready to be put to a local referendum
  • may suggest amendments to the plan, which you should follow to give the plan the best chance of success at referendum
  • may suggest that people in an adjacent area should be included in the referendum, if the plan closely affects them

The Examiner’s report is not legally binding but, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, we are likely to approve the examiner’s findings.

Step nine - the referendum

We will publish the examiner’s report. If recommended, we will organise the local referendum for the plan. If more than 50 per cent of people who vote in the referendum support the plan, we must adopt it.

Step ten - adopting your plan

We will then use the plan to help determine planning applications in the area.