FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
People have many questions about Neighbourhood Planning - please click the button to see our two-page summary of the main topics (Updated March 2023)
Proposed area for Designation
What is the Neighbourhood Forum?
An independent group of residents, businesses and local workers formed mid-2019 to develop - as volunteers - the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) for Maidenhead. Central government supports and funds such initiatives under the Localism Act 2011.
In the words of the Act: "Neighbourhood planning will allow communities, both residents, employees and business, to come together through a local parish council or neighbourhood forum and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go – and what they should look like."
Now the group has been officially recognised ("designated") by the local authority, it can propose planning policies based on the views of local people, and put together into a Neighbourhood Plan. Importantly this NP must fit alongside the wider Borough Local Plan (BLP), not contradict or challenge it.
Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum (MNF) has been set up to produce an NP for the seven wards of Maidenhead that have no parish council. That means the whole town except for Cox Green and Bray/Holyport, where people do have parish representation. The Forum receives national government funding to develop the NP but can only succeed if residents and local businesses take an active part. Please read on to find out what a NP plan is and why it is important for Maidenhead to have one.
The Forum’s job is to produce a workable NP within the constraints of planning law. The Forum is non-political and is not a campaigning group. Politicians from several parties are involved, working together, but most people are members of the public with an interest in one or more of the sub-groups and who care about the future of their town. The Plan will be adopted if it passes an independent inspection and is approved in a local referendum.
How do Neighbourhood Plans work?
A neighbourhood plan (NP) puts in place planning policy for a neighbourhood area to guide future development. An NP is about the use and development of land and may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development. It may deal with a wide range of social, economic and environmental issues such as housing, employment, design, heritage and transport.
An NP must meet certain specified ‘basic conditions’. These ensure plans contribute to the achievement of sustainable development, have regard to national policy and guidance and are in general conformity with adopted strategic local planning policies.
An NP cannot promote less development than that identified in the local plan for the local area (such as new housing allocations). It can specify policies and guidance on how new development should be designed, orientated and located. Neighbourhood plans can be a powerful tool in shaping the development of a neighbourhood. The timeframe for the neighbourhood plan will be for us to decide, for example whether it is a 5, 10, 15 or 20-year plan.
Why prepare a Neighbourhood Plan?
Robust neighbourhood plans have a powerful role in guiding developers towards delivering schemes that meet public approval. There will be clear guidelines about what the people of Maidenhead want. Our NP will consider the town as a whole and how different parts relate to each other, and each scheme must contribute to achieving the Plan’s agreed aims.
Developers pay a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) on most schemes. CIL is to be used for new infrastructure, not to address any pre-existing infrastructure deficit. There is an incentive to have an NP in force because 25% of that CIL money must be spent within Maidenhead on projects that the public choose; otherwise, the money can be spent anywhere in the Borough.
Alongside the mechanics of producing the NP, the public can have an aspirational voice.
How does a Neighbourhood Plan get adopted?
Maidenhead Neighbourhood Forum (MNF) is responsible for drafting the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) and intends to involve the public as much as possible during the process. Once the draft is ready, it then goes through various reviews before being put to the residents and local businesses in a local referendum.
To begin the process, MNF applied to the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead (RBWM) for Designation for the area we want to cover. There can only be one NP for a given area. Before making its decision, RBWM will investigate whether this group is credible and capable and whether there any competing groups.
After the draft is ready the subsequent steps then take place:
- MNF undertakes a formal public consultation lasting at least six weeks (the “Section 14 consultation”). This will be the first opportunity for the public to see the whole proposed NP
- After any adjustments have been applied, the proposal is submitted to RBWM. The submission includes a basic conditions statement showing how the proposed NP complies with national and EU law and other local plans
- RBWM undertakes a second consultation (the “Section 16 consultation”) lasting a further six weeks
- RBWM appoints and pays for an independent examiner to review the plan. Any comments received from the Section 16 consultation are provided to the examiner to consider but the proposal is examined unchanged
- The examiner may require changes or further work. RBWM is responsible for making the changes but MNF would have the right to withdraw the NP proposal.
- The final plan is put to a local public referendum.
These steps will take at least nine months, probably considerably longer.
RBWM's planning officers are obliged to take into account the Neighbourhood Plan policies when considering planning applications. But who monitors that they do? And how does the NP get updated when national legislation changes or other local policies are implemented?
The Forum itself has a limited life (five years max). It may be that other organisations can take on these responsibilities, perhaps an elected Town Council formed. However, these are decisions for the future to be made outside MNF.