Stages of Neighbourhood Planning

Stages of Neighbourhood Planning

Neighbourhood Planning is a statutory undertaking leading to a formal land-use plan. As such there are a number of key stages with associated regulations that give shape to those stages and what needs to happen. We have given an overview here but there is more detailed advice which we indicate below too, and in the research area there is more detailed assessment of the process and the stages:

  • Getting started…developing the project and establishing the scope of the Plan and the key issues to be addressed. You need to prepare for a long project – the average length of time taken to produce a neighbourhood plan is 27 months – and project planning is essential. An important step here is to define and designate the  neighbourhood area – this can be a more difficult matter to resolve, particularly in non-parished areas.
  • Relations with partners…getting buy-in and the support needed, including from the relevant Local Planning Authority. This is critical to a smooth process.
  • Consultation…the Plan needs to reflect the views of the wider community so they need to be kept informed and involved as the Plan is prepared. There are two formal stages of consultation and building up community support that is essential for a successful referendum as they are scrutinised.
  • Drafting and writing policies…this is often more difficult than many think. The policies need to be written as technical planning policies that relate to the use of land. They provide the basis for the determination of planning applications. Clarity of wording is essential and the policies need to be supported by robust and appropriate evidence.
  • Examination…to ensure the Plan conforms to the ‘basic conditions’ and other legislative requirements. The appointed examiner is agreed by the Neighbourhood and the Local Authority.
  • Referendum…where the  Plan goes to the neighbourhood area for vote. (50%+1 of those voting) is enough to pass the Plan. Thereafter the  Plan will be ‘made’ – formally adopted by the Local Authority as a statutory planning document.
  • After…this is a whole different story… implementation depends no many factors. However you may wish to think about reviewing or refreshing your Neighbourhood Plan after about five years.


Locality, the 3rd sector support organisation, produced a useful Neighbourhood Planning ‘Roadmap’, which outlines the stages involved…

Of course it is much more than that – it is a learning process, with numerous challenges. The need for support and maintaining key relations is critical. An important report setting out the experience of the first waves of neighbourhood planning groups was written by the research team at Reading ‘User Experience of Neighbourhood Planning’ (2014),

which we followed up in February 2017,

Further reading on this, see (Ch 5): Parker, G., Salter, K. and Wargent, M. (2018) Neighbourhood Planning in Practice (Forthcoming,  2018) – this is written to give a supportive but realistic view of what it takes to get a neighbourhood plan developed effectively, or how to choose a  different path that may serve your objectives.


Real Estate & Planning at Reading
Henley Business School