Support for neighbourhood planning

Find out about the process of neighbourhood planning and how we can help you to create a neighbourhood plan or neighbourhood development order.

The Localism Act introduced neighbourhood planning in 2011.

The Act allows communities to:
  • Shape and define how their area should grow and change in the future.
  • Form a neighbourhood forum or work through a parish council.
  • Agree on the kind of new houses, shops and businesses allowed in the local area.  
  • Draw up a neighbourhood plan.
  • Grant planning permissions in the areas they would most like to see new developments.

Neighbourhood planning helps communities drive improvement in local services. In Northumberland this must be led by parish councils.

View a plain English guide to the Localism Act at

View the Localism Act 2011 at
There are two main parts to neighbourhood planning:
  1. Neighbourhood development plans;
  2. Neighbourhood development orders (including community right to build orders).
These can be combined or used individually.

Neighbourhood development plans
These are usually simply referred to as ‘neighbourhood plans’.  In Northumberland, they are created by parish or town councils and set out planning policies for the development and use of land in their area. These can be either general or site specific policies and cannot block development already agreed through the Northumberland Local Plan.

Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, planning decisions for that area must be taken in accordance with its policies, as well as those set out in the Northumberland Local Plan.

Neighbourhood development orders
These are prepared in a similar way to neighbourhood plans. They grant permission for development without the need for further planning applications. They can grant planning permission for an individual development or for types of development across a whole neighbourhood area. So far there has been very limited use of neighbourhood development orders but but they have real potential especially when carried out in parallel with the preparation of a neighbourhood plan. For example, if a neighbourhood plan allocated sites for a particular type of development, a development order could be employed to grant permission for those uses.

A community right to build order is a special kind of NDO, granting planning permission for small, community development schemes, such as housing or new community facilities.
Parish councils are encouraged to seek advice in the early process of their plan development.

We have a duty to support parish and town councils who decide to prepare neighbourhood plans or orders. We will:
  • allocate a planning officer from the planning policy team to provide one-to-one support and technical advice throughout the production of the neighbourhood plan or order
  • provide advice to ensure neighbourhood plans and orders meet the legal requirements and they are in general conformity with the Northumberland Local Plan
  • organise the independent examination of the plan or order
  • organise the referendum
For further information and advice please contact the neighbourhood planning team:
Telephone: 0345 600 6400

Alternatively, write to:
Neighbourhood Planning & Infrastructure
Planning Services
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
NE61 2EF
There are five main stages in creating a neighbourhood plan (NDP) or order (NDO).

Stage one: area designation

Neighbourhood planning activity can only take place in areas specifically designated ‘neighbourhood areas’. The Parish Council must submit an area designation application to the County Council.

Stage two: preparing the NDP or NDO

The way in which NDPs / NDOs are prepared will be decided by the parish council. In most cases, a steering group will be established to lead preparation of a plan or order.

For an NDP, this stage would typically involve: gathering information about the neighbourhood area, and engaging with the community to identify local aspirations and priorities; identifying a vision for the neighbourhood area;  setting out a clear purpose for a plan including identifying or objectives to be achieved through the plan; drafting planning policies to help deliver the objectives of the plan; and seeking a screening from the County Council to determine if the plan would require strategic environmental assessment and habitats regulations assessment.

For an NDO, this stage would be fairly similar and would involve: gathering information about the neighbourhood area, and engaging with the community to identify whether there is a need for an NDO and the kinds of development that it should permit; drafting an NDO proposal; and seeking a screening from the County Council to determine if the order would require environmental impact assessment.

Once prepared, the draft plan or order must be subject to a six-week period of consultation (Regulation 14). This will include consulting national bodies as set out in the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations. Following the consultation period, representations must be considered and any amendments thought to be necessary must be made to the plan or order before it is submitted to the County Council.

Stage three: submit the plan or order

Once the plan or order has been submitted to the County Council, we will check it meets legal requirements.
The submission must include:

  • a map of the area
  • the draft plan
  • a statement outlining how the proposal meets the ‘basic conditions’ (see below)
  • a consultation statement setting out who was consulted and how, the issues raised and how these were resolved
This information will be publicised for a minimum of six weeks and any comments submitted will be sent directly to the independent examiner.

Stage four: independent examination

The independent examination will consider whether the plan or order meets the 'basic conditions' as set out in legislation (paragraph 8(2) of Schedule 4B to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). 

A neighbourhood plan or order meets the Basic Conditions if:
  • having regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State, it is appropriate to make the plan / order;
  • the making of the neighbourhood plan / order contributes to the achievement of sustainable development;
  • the making of the neighbourhood plan / order is in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area;
  • the making of the neighbourhood plan / order does not breach, and is otherwise compatible with, EU obligations; and
  • the making of the neighbourhood plan / order does not breach the requirements of Chapter 8 of Part 6 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017
The examiner will produce a report detailing their findings and make recommendations about the draft plan or order including whether it should be put to referendum in the local area.

Stage five: referendum

The County Council will publish the examiner’s report and, where recommended, we will organise a local referendum. For the plan or order to be adopted, it must receive majority support from the local community. If more than 50% vote in favour, the County Council must bring it into force.

Useful links and documents to help with the neighbourhood planning process.

A detailed step-by-step guide to neighbourhood planning has been produced by Locality and is available here.

Locality also produced a guide to keeping your neighbourhood plan simple, which is available here.