1.1 What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
The Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan (ADNP) is a new type of planning document. It is part of the Government’s new approach to planning, which aims to give local people more say about what goes on in their area. This is set out in the ‘Localism Act 2011’, that for Neighbourhood Planning came into force in April 2012.
The Plan provides a set of clear aims for the future of the town, and sets out planning policies and proposals to realise these aims. These policies and proposals accord with national and county level planning policy, as required by the Localism Act.
The Plan has been developed through extensive consultation with the people of Alnwick and Denwick and others with an interest in the town. Details of the consultation have been recorded in a series of reports that are available to download from the plan website
1.2 How the Neighbourhood Plan fits into the Planning System
Although the Government’s intention is for local people to decide what goes on in their town, the Localism Act sets out some important laws. One of these is that all neighbourhood plans must be in line with ’basic conditions’. That is, Neighbourhood Plans must:
- have regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State in particular the National Planning Policy Framework (otherwise known as the NPPF);
- contribute to the achievement of sustainable development;
- be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the development plan for the area, in particular the Northumberland Local Plan Core Strategy. (The Core Strategy for the County is still developing but identifies Alnwick as a main town which will continue to act as a service centre and a main focus for new houses, jobs and facilities and therefore an important centre for development in North Northumberland.);
- not breach, and must be otherwise compatible with, European Union (EU) and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) obligations and Strategic Environmental Assessment;
- not have a significant effect on a European Site (as defined in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2012) either alone or in combination with other plans or projects.
The Localism Act allows the Plan to provide more than the number of houses and amount of employment land set out in the Core Strategy but it does not allow the Plan to provide for less.
The Plan gives local people the power to decide for example where new housing and employment should go, and how the town centre should change. Without the Plan, Northumberland County Council would make these decisions on behalf of the people of Alnwick and Denwick.
1.3 What is in the Neighbourhood Plan?
Although deciding where new development should go is an important part of the Plan, it is about much more than this. The Plan is to guide the future of Alnwick and Denwick as a whole. It looks at a wide range of issues, including:
- What level of growth in Alnwick would be sustainable
- How we ensure we can develop the economy and services of the town
- How we provide housing that is affordable and helps young people to stay in the town
- What we need to do to retain the community facilities we have
- What we need to do to ensure the way we move around is more sustainable
- How we do all this and still protect the fabulous heritage and environment we all enjoy.
The plan responds to these issues by putting forward a set of policies that will be applied through the planning application process as well as proposals about what land will be allocated for various uses or protected for the future.
Neighbourhood plans will be used in making planning decisions. When a development or change is proposed in the Plan Area Northumberland County Council (as the Local Planning Authority) will be required to refer to the Neighbourhood Plan and check whether proposals are in keeping with policies the community has developed. In planning terms the policies set out in the plan are therefore the most important part of the plan. The policies in the plan will apply for the next 17 years up until 2031.
In approaching the issues which the community identified, it was evident early on that finding complete answers to some of them through the policies and proposals of the Neighbourhood Plan would not be possible. In other words some actions could not be directly tackled through the statutory neighbourhood plan. The Alnwick and Denwick Community Partnership Plan Steering Group however felt it was important that all issues identified by the community were responded to. The plan therefore has been structured in a way that sets out a number of ‘Community Action Proposals’ (CAP) in each topic area alongside the statutory Neighbourhood Plan to make the area a more attractive place to live, work and visit. These will provide clear indicators for other agencies as to what the community wish to achieve in Alnwick and Denwick. The Community Action Plan setting out the Community Action Proposals is set out at Appendix 1.
1.4 How the Plan is organised
After this Introduction the Plan is divided into the following sections:
Section 2: The Future for Alnwick and Denwick, which sets out:
- a brief description of the town and village today;
- why Alnwick and Denwick need a neighbourhood plan;
- the vision for Alnwick and Denwick and its communities; and
- the overall plan aims.
Section 3-10: Neighbourhood Plan Policies and Community Action Proposals, which set out by topic:
- a brief description of the topic summarising the key findings from evidence and from the issues consultation;
- the national and county level planning policy in relation to the topic;
- the objectives for the plan in each topic area;
- policies and proposals to support the overall aims in each topic area; and
- a set of community action proposals in each topic area.
Section 11: Delivering the Plan, which sets out:
- the ways in which the plan and the community action proposals will be brought into life.
To help you understand the Plan there is a glossary at the back explaining the more technical terms the Plan refers to.
There is a large amount of background information that has helped in producing the Plan. What is known as ‘the evidence base’ includes a large number of documents that the topic leaders used to prepare the Issues and Options Papers and also the sections of the draft plan. Key documentation is held on the Neighbourhood Plan website at:
1.5 How the Plan has been prepared
The Neighbourhood Plan has been prepared for Alnwick Town Council (The ‘Qualifying Body’ under the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations) and Denwick Parish Council by the Alnwick and Denwick Community Partnership Steering Group, a group of local people brought together to work on the plan.
The Steering Group has been assisted throughout by Northumberland County Council officers. The plan preparation process involved a number of key steps.
The Town Council applied to be a Neighbourhood Planning Front Runner to gain funding from the government in summer 2011 and being successful with that decided in September 2011 to begin the preparation of the plan and embarked on an initial round of consultation with residents in the plan area about what the issues were facing the town and the surrounding area. This took place over the winter of 2011.
Alnwick Town Council and Denwick Parish Council jointly decided to prepare the plan for the full extent of both their areas for practical reasons because much of the current development on the South east side of the town as well as possible future areas for development actually falls within Denwick Parish (Detached) (See Map). An application was made to the County Council to officially designate the Neighbourhood Plan Area in summer 2012 and the area was subsequently designated on 11 April 2013.
Members of the Steering Group worked together in topic groups in 2012 to research the issues raised and identify possible options to solve them. A further round of consultation was held on these issues and options in winter 2012 and the feedback used to prepare this draft plan in 2013/14.
1.6 Next Steps
This Plan is a consultation draft. Alnwick Town Council in association with Denwick Parish Council is now asking local people and others with an interest in the future of the Neighbourhood Plan Area for their views on the Plan.
A revised version of the plan will then be produced and submitted to the County Council which will be the subject of an independent examination by a specialist in the planning field. Provided the examiner finds that the Plan meets the basic conditions set out by law there will then be a referendum.
The examiner may make some recommendations for the plan to be modified before that happens but once the referendum has been arranged those living in the neighbourhood plan area have the final say on whether the plan should be accepted. The referendum will ask all those living in the plan area to vote on whether the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan should proceed and be brought into force by the County Council. Provided more than 50% of the people voting approve the plan it will be ‘made’ by the County Council. It is expected that the referendum will take place in mid 2015.