Preparation of Neighbourhood Plans is led by the designated statutory “Qualifying Body.
This is usually a Town or Parish Council. Once the Qualifying Body (in consultation with the local community) is happy with the Plan, the regulations require that they submit it to East Northamptonshire Council for independent examination. At this point the relevant Town/ Parish Council “hands over the baton” to East Northamptonshire Council to take the process forward.
Once a Neighbourhood Plan is submitted, the regulations governing the process (Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 and subsequent amendments), follow the stages below.
- East Northamptonshire Council checks the submitted Neighbourhood Plan, to ensure that the Plan and supporting documentation comply with the relevant statutory requirements (the “Regulation 15” check).
- As soon as possible after submission, East Northamptonshire Council must then undertake a statutory 6-weeks consultation, around the “Basic Conditions”; the tests that a Neighbourhood Plan must meet to be adopted (the “Regulation 16” consultation).
- Following the “Regulation 16” consultation East Northamptonshire Council, having consulted the Qualifying Body, must appoint an independent examiner to assess the Neighbourhood Plan against the “Basic Conditions”; informed by feedback from the Regulation 16 consultation.
- The appointed independent examiner will assess the Plan against the Basic Conditions (further information about this is available through the Neighbourhood Planning page). This process takes around 2-3 months and is normally dealt with by way of written representations, although on occasions the examiner may require an informal hearing.
- Once the examiner has finalised and delivered his/ her report (approximately 4-5 months after submission) East Northamptonshire Council is required to publish the report. Publication of the examiner’s report also triggers a period of 56 working days (i.e. 11 weeks/ 2 ½ months), within which the referendum must be held unless an extension is agreed with the Qualifying Body. East Northamptonshire Council will consult with the Qualifying Body (Town/ Parish Council) to see if they approve the Neighbourhood Plan (incorporating the examiner’s modifications) in order to see the Plan progress to referendum.
- Following the referendum, East Northamptonshire Council has 8 weeks in which to “make” (adopt) the Neighbourhood Plan as part of the statutory development plan for East Northamptonshire.
Overall, the process (from submission to “making”/ adoption) of a Neighbourhood Plan should take around 8-9 months.