I am often contacted by people who are confused by the planning system and the difference between Parish Plans and Neighbourhood Plans.
The following information was provided by the House of Commons Library:
In summary, parish plans are normally informal documents that describe actions that the parish council can take at a local level or they aim to focus local opinion to feed into decisions being taken at a higher level. The advantage is that they are quick to produce and there are no formal procedural requirements so they are also relatively cheap to make. The big disadvantage is that they carry no formal weight in the planning process – a local authority does not have to give a parish plan any formal weight in its decision taking on a planning application. In contrast, neighbourhood plans are formal planning documents which do carry official weight, but they are often expensive to produce (although some financial incentives are available), there are a series of procedural steps to follow including public consultation, official examination and a referendum and they can take around two years to make.
The idea behind a parish plan is for parish councils and local communities to influence and shape the future development of their communities. These plans can include any social, environmental or economic issues and are based on a process of community consultation. On their own, they hold no legal authority, but can be used by local councils to inform their own local plans. Parish plans generally combine two things. They can describe actions that they are able to take at a modest local level – for example maintenance arrangements for a playground or uses for a village hall. In addition, they can act as a focus for local opinion to feed into decisions that are taken at a higher level. For example, a parish plan might express a desire for more affordable accommodation.
One way in which parish plans can carry more weight at an official level is for them to be adopted as a "supplementary planning document" (SPDs) to the local plan by the local council. For a parish plan to be adopted as an SPD it must be demonstrated that it is conformity with the local council's local plan. Sometimes however, the intention of the parish plan is to challenge the local plan and so this is not always an option.
A neighbourhood plan is another type of plan that Parish councils can make, but it is one that carries official formal weight with the local authority when it takes planning decisions. The Localism Act 2011 placed a legal duty on local planning authorities to support and advise parish councils and neighbourhood forums that want to do neighbourhood planning. Neighbourhood forums and parish councils can use the neighbourhood planning powers to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. These are called "neighbourhood development plans." Neighbourhood planning can also be used to permit development in an area without the need for planning applications. These are called "neighbourhood development orders." A Neighbourhood Development Order can grant planning permission for major development schemes, new houses, a new shop or pub, or permit extensions of a certain size or scale across the whole neighbourhood area.
Again, however, the neighbourhood plan must be in general conformity with the local plan for the area, particularly in relation to the "strategic priorities" which have to be set out in the local authority's local plan which covers developments such as provision of homes, leisure, retail and commercial development and infrastructure for transport, telecommunications, waste, and energy. The neighbourhood plan can be used, however, influence the finer details of any development, such as the type, design, location and mix of new development.
Neighbourhood development plans or orders do not take effect unless there is a majority of support in a referendum of the neighbourhood. They also have to meet a number of conditions before they can be put to a community referendum and legally come into force. Some local authorities suggest that on average the process is likely to take around two years.
The neighbourhood planning specialists Locality estimate on their website the cost to be from around £10,000 at the lower end, where the plan is for a small rural settlement for example, up to as much as £80,000 where the plan is for a large complex area and is entirely produced by a professional team.
For more detailed information on neighbourhood development plans see Library briefing paper, Neighbourhood planning.