Cllr Rosie Adams and Cllr Andy Simms attended a Neighbourhood planning hive meeting in Reading on June 6th below is their report:
The Hive was run by an independent group under the guidance of Professor
Gavin Parker (Henley Business School, University of Reading) the results will be
published and will be part of the Governments policy making strategy on N.
Planning in the future.
39 NP areas were represented from all over the country.
Summary of research –
There is an uneven geographical take up of NP’ing
There have been cases of conflict where those writing the plans have assumed
consensus between what they think the public want for their area and what is
actually wanted. So a more robust form of participation will now be required
with strong evidence that the proposals came from the public request or that
ideas are based on agreement by the public.
The legislation on the NP changes on a regular basis where updates are
proposed to an ongoing Plan the Plan must take those updates into account, if
there is a finished Plan and an update meets the basic conditions there will be
no need for a new referendum the NP itself can be changed accordingly. If
there is a significant change then the Plan must go back to referendum. Money
will need to be set aside for a. checking for updates, b. changes to the Plan
itself, c. a new Plan, d. a possible new referendum
The LPA should ‘have regard’ to a NP that has passed examination
The LPA is responsible for identifying which of their strategic priorities and
policies in the LP the NP must be in conformity with.
From July 31st the LPA’s must identify in the ‘Statement of Community
Involvement’ the support they will give NP groups this means, a. how the
community was involved, b. what they can offer to achieve transparency
Delivery of Housing –
The figures are at present unknown which is halting some NP’s
Experiences of other NP’s
• A lot more work than expected
• Lack of clarity and guidance
• Inappropriate guidance
• Developer changes
• Changes to policy
• Differing views of the community
• The ‘dark arts’ of planning policies
• Costs incurred rage from £500 to £ 30,000 ( note that Totnes has already
exceeded this figure and will need to spend more to make the NP
• If the Community really needs something ( what used to be called ‘a
wish list’) even if it is outside the LP then put it in the NP and get the
evidence from the community to back it. E.g. setting aside land for a
future By-pass, land for recreation facilities, affordable starter homes.
• Surveys must contain: Post codes, age, and name of every person who
returns the survey so there is a record of duplication. ( note our
evidence so far does not match this criteria)
• We need to re-look at the value of a ‘Housing needs Assessment’
• There should be a Special Planning Officer in S.hams and a dedicated NP
officer, our expectation is that this person must and should be proactive
in advice and help e.g. use of public transport reports, etc
• Note that there are people registered for housing in more than one area
• It cannot be emphasised enough that evidence must be Robust and
clearly back up the Community Survey
• Need to draw on evidence to explain intention and rational of policies-
include policy justification
• Evidence must be plain and context specific
• Community views provide the steer on areas and topics for which
evidence should be gathered
• There needs to be specific advice on certain policy areas e.g. local green
space, SEA and site assessment. These need to be professional and
• See Planning Aid England’s guide on good evidence gathering
• Community Actions can go into the Plan e.g. sports and leisure facilities
(note if they go in the Plan then a report on how these items will be
financed must be available) There must also be Implementation groups
set up to see these objectives through to completion
We not only have other notes but we also have notes from other group
members who attended. We have shared our notes with other members
so there is a framework of checks and cross checks on the information.
The recent and ongoing changes to the Neighbourhood Plan requirements have required a
rethink about what we need to do in Totnes to complete a robust and effective
Neighbourhood Plan. There is a path through this minefield that is the NP but it cannot be
navigated solely on the work already done or by our hard working volunteers on the NP Task
and Finish Group. Neither can it be done with the help of someone who knows a ‘ bit about
something’ although they can be a valued part of the research. This is not a criticism of
anyone or anyone’s work ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ and you can’t be expected
to provide work when you don’t know that you need to provide and what you need to
evidence has changed anyway.
Part 1 outlined the situation we have at present; in Part 2 we will explain what we need to
do now and how others are successfully navigating the path to a complete NP.
Changes and strategies
• The government is shifting its approach from a Light Touch to more rigorous
• The NP is not finished after referendum in fact that is just the beginning it has a very
short 3 year life span and even during those years it will be subject to changes. After
year 3 it will need continuous updating and patching to keep it viable. This is a ‘Live
Document’ always being modified always open to challenge.
• We have recently seen how our 106 money can be lost without a strategy, this is the
reason we need the skills of a legal team and the skills of an ecologist to work with
us on the green spaces and planning aspects of the Plan.
• Our Plan must set a legal president for the future that secures our 106 money
• The NP group can be of vital help in collecting evidence but we do not have the skill
set to provide the perfectly worded documents we need to support a water tight
• Many of the successful NP writers at the training had used Landsmith Associates
( Tor Ecology) and could not have praised them more highly for their work. A list of
what they can provide can be found at the end of this document
• Due to the inevitable and increasing changes to the NP requirements it would be
advisable to subscribe to an independent network that searches through legislation
to find these changes. The changes are not all in one place and some are easy to miss
so with an eye on due diligence we would be wise to subscribe.
• On the positive side the Task and Finish group can write the Plan itself without
further expenditure. We have the outline of what is required; a tight clear easy to
read document that contains the ‘bones’ that support the Policies. It has been made
clear to us that the examiners like pictures and that the policies must be short and
concise and not too many of them.
• Our problem is that our evidence from the community does not meet the new
exacting requirements. We will have to go out and get that evidence, the Task and
Finish group has a clear vision of how it will collect the evidence. This will require a
cash input. Part of the evidence gathering can be done by Tor Ecology, Landsmith
Associates and they have budgeted for it.
• The Task and Finish group has been frugal so we have the money to commission the
report and part of the money to employ the final checks on the Plan and to take it to
• We will be applying to Locality for the balance.
• There is no doubt that Totnes needs a robust NP which supports the needs and
aspirations of the community. It must be sustainable, resilient, promote wellbeing
and with healthy neighbourhoods.