Frequently asked Questions and Answers

1. What is neighbourhood planning?

Neighbourhood planning is a new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work.The Localism Act has introduced new rights for local communities to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan, initiate Neighbourhood Development Orders and exercise a Community Right to Build.

Neighbourhood planning is not compulsory. Communities need volunteers to get involved to help prepare the Plan and ensure community support for it.

2. What is a Neighbourhood Development Plan?

A Neighbourhood Development Plan is a plan prepared by a community that helps shape development in the area in which they live.

Once adopted, a Neighbourhood Development Plan will:

Form part of the local statutory development plan;

Form the basis for determining planning applications in that area;

Assist the Cheshire East Borough and Congleton Town Council as well as planning officers make decisions for the future of the Congleton area.

3. Neighbourhood Development Plans:

Can set policies in relation to development and the use of land in the designated area;

Should identify a collective vision and key local priorities for the sustainable development of the area;

Can allocate sites for housing, employment or other development;

Can confirm special protection areas such as the Green Belt of particular importance to the community and encourage appropriate uses of land within the Green Belt;

Must specify the time period for which they are to cover;

Can only relate to one neighbourhood area.

4. What areas can be covered by a Neighbourhood Plan?

Designating a ‘neighbourhood area’ is the first formal stage in developing a Neighbourhood Development Plan or order. Cheshire East as the local planning authority has already confirmed that the area to be covered by the Congleton Neighbourhood Plan will be the town boundary.

5. How does the Neighbourhood Plan relate to the Cheshire East Local Plan and national planning policy?

Neighbourhood Plans have to meet certain basic conditions before they can come into force. These include the need to have appropriate regard to national planning policy and to be in general conformity with the strategic policies in the development plan for the area. At the moment, the local part of the development plan is the Congleton Borough Local Plan from 2005, although many of its policies will be superseded by the Cheshire East Local Plan following its consideration by the Planning Inspector during 2015.

6. How will the presumption in favour of sustainable development relate to our Neighbourhood Plan?

The presumption in favour of sustainable development is principally a means of ensuring that Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans are put together in a way which reflects an evidence-based assessment of the social, economic and environmental needs of an area.

Recent planning reforms strengthen the role of plans (including Neighbourhood Plans and Local Plans) in decision making. The presumption makes clear that planning applications that are in line with both Local and Neighbourhood Plans should normally be approved.

7. What procedures need to be followed in producing a Neighbourhood Plan?

There are a number of key steps that should be followed in preparing a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Environmental and sustainability requirements should be taken into account in the scoping and delivery stages. The early stages of plan and area designation have already been undertaken. The next steps are to develop our objectives, priorities and vision for the future of the town. This will include a major public consultation with the local community early in 2015. Following that a draft plan will be prepared and consulted upon. The Plan will then be finalised and submitted to Cheshire East Council with a further period of consultation. An independent examination of the Plan will then take place followed by a community referendum giving all members of the community the opportunity to confirm their support for the plan. The plan is then confirmed by Cheshire East Borough Council.

8. How long does it take to produce a Neighbourhood Plan?

The amount of work will be largely dependent on the content and scope of the Plan. For example the Neighbourhood Plan could focus on a single issue such as identifying development sites in line with the Cheshire East Local Plan. However, preparing a Neighbourhood Plan is likely to take a considerable amount of time and effort, but, we aim to fast track the plan and complete the work in about six months

9. How much does it cost to produce a Neighbourhood Plan?

There is no fixed format or template for a Neighbourhood Plan and the cost of preparing a plan is therefore likely to vary depending on its complexity and size. However, it is estimated that preparing a Neighbourhood Plan will cost between £15,000 and £40,000.

10. Who will pay for neighbourhood planning?

The cost of a Neighbourhood Development Plan will generally be met by the ‘qualifying body’ which is the Town Council in the case of Neighbourhood Plans. Cheshire East Council will meet part of the cost in carrying out their statutory duties to support the process, as determined by the Localism Act 2011 and they are also paying for planning consultants costs.

The Council’s guide to neighbourhood planning illustrates the stages of the process where the Council has a role financially and the Council is entitled to apply for central government funding at certain stages in the process, which we are currently undertaking. The government has also identified financial support to directly assist the development of Neighbourhood Plans. Cheshire East Council has also appointed Cheshire Community Action to support the development of Neighbourhood Plans and Congleton is one of a handful of town or parish councils to benefit from this support.

11. Who takes the lead in neighbourhood planning?

Although the Town Council is the legal ‘qualifying body’, there is a need to consider how to engage with the wider community, and the Town Council has adopted a steering group approach led by the qualifying body. Members of the group include the Town Council, a Cheshire East Borough councillor and Cheshire Community Action, as well as members of local organisations, businesses and the community.

12. What is the role of Cheshire East Council in neighbourhood planning?

Cheshire East Council has a number of roles to undertake in order to fulfil its duty to support. These include:

Confirming the geographical area of proposed Neighbourhood Plan

Providing data and evidence to support the plan

Providing expertise and advice

Holding referenda;

Adopting Neighbourhood Plans where all legal requirements have been met.

13. Will we have to employ specialists to support our Neighbourhood Plan?

The amount of evidence that needs to be produced will depend on the scale and ambition of the Neighbourhood Plan The Plan will be able to use existing available evidence such as that used by the local authority in its Local Plan preparations, but there may be a need for further specialist evidence to be collected to support policies and proposals.

14. What is the relationship between Local Plans and Neighbourhood Plans?

Neighbourhood Plans must be in general conformity with higher level Local Plans – which will be the Cheshire East Local Plan Core Strategy, once adopted. It is important that the local community works closely with officers and councillors from Cheshire East Council when developing the Neighbourhood Plan. The Borough Council is taking an active role in advising and supporting local communities in their Plan preparation by sharing evidence, information and ensuring the Neighbourhood Plan fits with the strategic policies of the Core Strategy and national policy.

15. What does a Neighbourhood Plan look like?

There are no set guidelines which describe what a Neighbourhood Plan should contain or look like. However, as set out above, Neighbourhood Plans must conform to adopted Local Plans such as the Cheshire East Core Strategy. The content of a Neighbourhood Plan is likely to contain a series of explanatory text, policies and maps.

16. What documents have to be prepared and publishedfor a Neighbourhood Plan?

The Neighbourhood Plan once prepared has to be submitted to Cheshire East Council. It will have to contain the following documents:

A map showing the area of the plan;

A consultation statement showing how the local community has been involved in preparing the plan;

The proposed Neighbourhood Plan;

A statement as to how the Plan fulfils the basic conditions and other legal requirements.

17. What role and influence do local Councillors have in the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan?

As local leaders and representatives of the community, Councillors representing Congleton on Cheshire East Borough Council as well as elected members of Congleton Town Council have an important role in listening to the local community, learning from the work undertaken in preparing the Plan and in supporting its policies and proposals. The intention is that the collaborative working established in the steering group will ensure that all Councillors can support the Plan in the formal meetings as the Plan is endorsed by the Town Council, then the Borough Council, before being made available for public support through the referendum.

18. How long does a neighbourhood plan last?

The Neighbourhood Plan is intended to plan for the period until 2030, the same as the Local Plan Core Strategy A Neighbourhood Plan can and probably would be reviewed within that period.

19. What ‘weight’ will be given to a Neighbourhood Plan in decisions about development?

When adopted, Neighbourhood Plans will be statutory planning documents. They will form part of the local development plan, which is made up of the Local Plan (Cheshire East Local Plan Core Strategy) and a Site Allocations and Development Management Policies document. Once adopted, the Neighbourhood Plan will have significant weight in making decisions on planning applications.

20. Can a Neighbourhood Plan stop development from happening?

A plan or order can be used to shape where and how development takes place but it cannot be used to say ‘no’ to development. The process of preparing a plan or order includes understanding what a sustainable and appropriate level of development is appropriate and necessary for our community to respond to the challenges it faces, and looking at where this additional growth might go.

21. Who carries out the examination of the Neighbourhood Plan?

A thorough and professional review will be undertaken by an independent examiner appointed by the Borough Council to ensure the plan meets the necessary standards and is in conformity with legislation and general conformity with national and local policy. The independent examiner may suggest changes to the Plan. If the Plan is found to be satisfactory, then the local authority will arrange for the referendum to take place. If more than 50% of those voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’, then the Borough Council will adopt the Plan.

22. Does the Town Council have to run a referendum?

It is important that the whole community has the opportunity to be involved in a Neighbourhood Plan which may have significant effects on the shape of that community in the future. Alongside the importance of wide community engagement in developing the plan, a referendum is the final method of proving this and providing democratic legitimacy for the content of the Plan. The Town Council will not have to run the neighbourhood planning referendum – this will be the responsibility of Cheshire East Council.

23. What is the relationship between neighbourhood planning and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)?

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a new charge that local authorities in England can place on new development in their area. The money generated through the Levy will contribute to the funding of infrastructure to support growth. Amendments made to the CIL Regulations in 2013 now mean that where development takes place within an area that has a Neighbourhood Development Plan in place, the local authority must pass 25% of the relevant CIL receipts to the town or parish council for that area. Areas without a Neighbourhood Development Plan will receive 15% (capped at £100 per council tax dwelling) of the relevant CIL receipts.

24. Does a Neighbourhood Plan require an environmental sustainability assessment?

Establishing whether a Neighbourhood Plan requires an environmental assessment is an important legal requirement and should form an integral part of the neighbourhood planning preparation process. Cheshire East Council will determine whether the Neighbourhood Plan requires a strategic environmental assessment (SEA). If an assessment is required this should take place from the outset when the initial work is carried out on the Neighbourhood Plan i.e. when developing the objectives, priorities and vision.

In addition to considering the need for an environmental assessment, although not a legal requirement, it is good practice to consider the social and economic effects of the Neighbourhood Plan. This ‘sustainability appraisal’ will help to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan contributes to the achievement of sustainable development.

25. We are consulted about everything these days – why is this different?

The idea behind Neighbourhood Plans is that they are community-led. Although the Town Council leads and coordinates the plan-making process, other members of the local community are actively involved. It is important that the wider local community is engaged in the Plan, that their local knowledge is deployed and their views are included in the Plan. All those eligible to vote will be given the opportunity to support or reject the Plan before it is confirmed so local support is essential.

26. Will the Neighbourhood Plan protect our Green Belt?

The area around Congleton is already protected as part of the Cheshire Green Belt by national and Local Plan policies. The need for any new development on its own is not regarded as a very special circumstance to justify allowing such development in the Green Belt. Sites have to be considered on a site by site basis so it will be important for the Neighbourhood Plan to identify appropriate open uses of land lying within the Green Belt which can both benefit local residents and visitors and also be compatible with the wider policy for the Green Belt.

27. Which of our neighbours are producing Neighbourhood Plans?

Within Cheshire East, a number of adjoining and nearly town and parish councils are now preparing Neighbourhood Plans including Astbury and Brereton. It is hoped that some joint work with Astbury, Brereton and Somerford will be possible so that time and resources are not lost, with basic information being collected only once

28. Where can I find out further information about neighbourhood planning and the Congleton Neighbourhood Plan?

In the first instance, further information can be had from the Town Clerk at