Help for Chorley residents to create neighbourhood plans - and have a say about where houses are built in their own backyard

Chorley residents are to be encouraged to draw up neighbourhood plans to help determine where houses are built in their part of the borough.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 3:15 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 3:16 pm

Chorley Council has been selected as a pilot area to promote the creation of the documents, which can also influence other aspects of development in a particular locality - such as shops, services and offices.

Neighbourhood plans usually fall within the borders of existing parish or town councils - but they can be produced for any tightly-defined location where residents can coalesce around a common vision for how it should develop.

Once finalised, a plan has to be put to the people living in the area in a referendum before it can be implemented.

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The document cannot put a block building - but it can influence where it takes place and the types of properties permitted. To that end, it must not conflict with the borough-wide local plan which dictates development across the whole of Chorley and which will still drive the total number of houses to be built.

However, a neighbourhood plan, once approved, is given the same status as that overarching policy for the wider area - and the two must be considered alongside each other when Chorley Council, as the planning authority, assesses proposals for development.

The council has now been given a £50,000 government grant to help any areas interested in creating a neighbourhood plan.

Cabinet member for planning Alistair Morwood says he is keen to see as many parts of Chorley as possible produce the documents - but that it is important residents understand their scope and the work involved in drawing them up.

“We like communities to have a lot of say in what's going on in their own area - so it's a good thing to get [them] involved in their own planning.

“But they can’t overrule the local plan. There was this idea [when neighbourhood plans were first introduced] that if the local plan says we are going to build ‘x’ number of houses in an area, then we can say no, we’re actually going to build ‘y’ number of houses - but it doesn't quite work like that.

“However, [an area] might be able to say they would like certain housing types - so maybe they don’t need four and five-bedroomed houses, but decent one-bedroomed flats or two-bed houses.

“These [neighbourhood plans] won't just have been picked out of fresh air, they will have gone through a very strict process - and it puts the council in a much stronger position to say yes or no to [a particular planning application].

“These are quite complex matters and it can be quite daunting when you [start]. That’s what the grant is for - we’ll use it [to fund] external consultants who are experts in this area and it will also to free up more time for council officers to get involved,” Cllr Morwood explained.

There are 24 parish councils in Chorley, but currently only two - Bretherton and Coppull - have had their proposed neighbourhood plan boundaries approved and are under way with developing the documents.

As well as being subject to approval in a local referendum, proposed plans must also get the nod from an independent examiner who ensures that they comply with some basic conditions.

The government came up with the idea of neighbourhood plans dearly a decade ago as part of legislation designed to encourage localism. It advises that they should “be prepared positively, in a way that is aspirational but deliverable”.

Government guidance adds: “The local planning authority should work with the qualifying body so that complementary neighbourhood and local plan policies are produced.

“It is important to minimise any conflicts between policies in the neighbourhood plan and those in the emerging local plan, including housing supply policies.”

Chorley Council has spent recent years working with neighbouring authorities in Preston and South Ribble to develop the first joint local plan for the whole of Central Lancashire. That policy is expected to be in place by the end of 2023.

Once a neighbourhood plan is in force, the area which it covers is entitled to 25 percent of any money generated from housebuilders in community infrastructure levy payments made as part of developments in that locality.

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