3. How the Neighbourhood Plan is being prepared
The logic behind the Plan
3.1 The logic behind the Plan was to understand what had to be in the Plan, what topics were being covered in Neighbourhood Plans in similar situations elsewhere and to understand what issues mattered to residents and how these might be addressed. From this, a set of strategic aims could be drawn up. Having set out the aims, and armed with the issues we needed to address, we could then develop policies which were both in general conformity with Local Authority Plans and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and which, if followed, would deliver against the strategic aims. So the rest of the document explains how this was done and what the resulting policies are. A document known as the Basic Condition Statement (at Annex D in the 'Download' section) demonstrates how the policies developed are in general conformity with the NPPF and the Local Authorities’ Development Plans.
The process involved a number of key steps:
Designation and Raising Awareness
3.2 In April 2014 Buckland Monachorum Parish Council decided to produce a Neighbourhood Plan and following a public meeting a small Steering Group was formed which met and agreed to apply to designate the Parish boundary as the Neighbourhood Planning boundary. This Committee also agreed the broad areas that would be covered by the Plan; residential development, economic development, ser-vices and the environment although it was also agreed that the Plan would not be constrained if other issues were raised during its production. The Boundary was approved in Nov 2014 by both DNPA and WDBC and is shown at Annex E at the 'Download' section.
Early Consultation and Evidence Gathering
3.3 Between November 2014 and January 2015 a detailed questionnaire was produced, market tested, distributed to over 1400 home and businesses across the Par-ish and completed returns sent to the Community Council of Devon for analysis. The Questionnaire is at Annex F in the 'Download' section and the analysis of its findings at Annex G. Although the returns were anonymous, residents were given the opportunity to be added to a data-base in order to be consulted further and over 200 elected to do so. A total of 476 completed questionnaires were received (deemed statistically significant) and of these all 200 who had provided contact details received a copy of the completed questionnaire analysis. As issues arose, this ‘focus group’ have been invited to comment.
3.4 In addition, four events, specifically aimed at evidence gathering were arranged. The first, a guided tour of significant sites of historic significance around the Parish was attended by 50 residents and co-hosted by TVAONB, the second, a ‘housing drop-in day’ by over 120 residents, the third, the annual parish meeting, by over 40 and the fourth, an ‘open day’ to road test the draft policies to which over 130 residents attended. At each of these occasions, those attending were asked to record their views on a range of issues seen as important to the production of the Plan and the results summarised at Annex G(i). Additionally, specific study was undertaken (by an independent consultant) on the issue of whether the Yelverton Business Park extension proposals in WDBC’s draft ‘Our Plan’ was in accordance with policy guidance and warranted by demand. This report is at Annex H in the 'Download' section.
Issues raised in the Plan's preparation
3.5 Analysing the findings of the various consultation exercises and local evidence, the Steering Group drafted a summary of the key issues for the Neighbourhood Plan. The findings were grouped into the four themes, distributed to the focus group and included in the Parish Council’s record of events. The Steering Group also set up a Facebook Page with links to the key events and documents and included links to and from this to the Parish Council’s own website. The Facebook page was discontinued and replaced by the website which allows comments to be sent from Pa-rishioners to the Planning Team and was linked to the Parish Council’s own website.
3.6 As the Plan has progressed, some issues arose which were not covered by the questionnaire. These have been included in the draft plan and reaction to them gathered at the various feedback sessions held. It is hoped that further feedback on these issues will gained through comments received as the Plan is circulated in draft for comment. These issues are highlighted in YELLOW throughout the Plan.
Docking the Neighbourhood plan with the Planning Authority's Local Plans
3.7 During the time that the Neighbourhood Plan was being produced, both of the Local Authorities (WDBC and DNPA) were redrafting their own Local Plans (and still are) and opportunities were taken to meet with both planning teams to attempt to en-sure a degree of conformity between the Neighbourhood Plan and two Local Plans. Both WDBC and DNPA appointed lead officers to work with the NP team. The relationship between the Neighbourhood Plan and the Local Plans, once each has been accepted, is one of 'equal weight'; each Plan, as it is constructed needs to take note of the proposals in the other and, where possible, demonstrate 'general conformity'.
3.8 One issue for the Neighbourhood Planning Team was to consider whether to delay production of the Neighbourhood Plan until both the Local Authorities had completed their respective plans or to proceed in parallel. Advice was strongly in support of the latter approach as issues identified during the production of one plan could then be considered, where appropriate, in the other.
WDBC’s Our Plan and the Joint Local Plan
3.9 As the NP Group was starting to draw up the Neighbourhood Plan, WDBC produced a document called ‘Our Plan’. It was a draft, issued for consultation and was, at the time, issued with the intention of it eventually becoming a replacement for the current Development Plan which was judged to no longer be in compliance with the NPPF. Feedback received on the draft Our Plan was such that it was decided not to pursue its production but instead to develop a Joint Local Plan with Plymouth and South Hams.
3.10 A Neighbourhood Plan has to be in ‘general conformity’ with the most recently adopted Local Plan(s) and the NPPF and as Our Plan was withdrawn it cannot be considered adopted and neither can the Joint Local Plan which has yet to complete its drafting stage. The policies against which this NP must be judged as ‘generally compliant’ are therefore those within the current Local Development Plan(s) and the NPPF. The one exception to this is that if evidence exists which is more recent than that used to draw up the Local Plan, it is relevant. So, where new evidence was used to produce elements of Our Plan or the embryonic Joint Local Plan, this evidence can, and should, be used to influence the NP. The Basic Condition Statement (at Annex D in ther 'Download' section) shows the links between the NPPF, Local Plan Policies and the Policies in this NP.
3.11 Throughout July to November 2015 further work was done to look at many of the issues, culminating in this draft Plan. A pause of a few months was agreed until the Local Authority’s proposals on whether to proceed with Our Plan or develop a Joint Local Plan were considered. In the interim, the opportunity was taken to publish the draft plan as a website and widely ‘advertise’ it in parish-wide publications.
Draft Plan to Final Plan, Submission and Examination
3.12 Now that the NPSG and Parish Council are content that the Plan is ready for wider circulation, it will be copied to both Local Authorities (WDBC & DNPA) and other statutory consulates and issued for public consultation to those living in the Parish. Once all the comments from this 6 week statutory local consultation exercise have been analysed and fed into this document, the proposed Neighbourhood Plan and its supporting documents will then submitted to both local Authorities for approval and, following that, it will undergo an independent examination to ensure it conforms to any legal and statutory requirements.
3.13 Subject to a successful examination outcome, the Plan will proceed to a local referendum where the community of the Parish will be asked whether it wants the Parish Council of Buckland Monachorum to use the Neighbourhood Plan and deliver the policies therein. If a favourable response is received the Plan will become part of the statutory ‘development plan’ for the area and, with the Local Plan, become the starting point for, inter alia, deciding planning applications within the Parish.