The WNP has now been submitted to ENC, so what happens now?
ENC will carry out checks to ensure that the WNP and all accompanying documents comply with legal requirements. Once they are satisfied that everything is in order, they will formally publicise, for a minimum of 6 weeks, that Warmington has submitted a proposed Neighbourhood Plan. This Regulation 16 consultation will take place from 14th June until 29th July and those who live, work or carry on business in the area covered by the WNP can submit further comments to ENC. These comments will be collated and then used in an examination of the WNP by an independent examiner.
An independent examiner appointed and paid for by ENC must then evaluate the WNP to ensure it meets all statutory obligations.
The examiner can only be appointed with the agreement of the PC.
The arrangements for the examination will be decided by the examiner in consultation with ENC and the PC.
The main purpose of the examination is to ensure that the WNP:
- Meets European obligations.
- Has regard to national planning policies.
- Is in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan.
- Is compatible with adjoining Neighbourhood Plans.
- Contributes to the achievement of sustainable development.
It’s likely that the examiner will wish to consider written representations (comments objecting to or supporting the WNP) rather than hearing comments in person, but a public hearing may be called if the examiner feels this is required.
Once the examination is over, the examiner will issue a report that is likely to include one of the following recommendations:
- That the WNP should proceed to a referendum.
- That the WNP should proceed to a referendum, subject to certain amendments.
- That the WNP should not proceed
If the recommendation is that the WNP should not proceed to a referendum the reasons for this should be explained. The community will then need to consider whether, and if so how, these concerns can be addressed. If it is felt that the changes that would need to be made are acceptable a revised version could be submitted for future examination.
ENC will consider the examiner’s report and decide whether the recommendations should be followed, including accepting amendments if necessary – hopefully in consultation with the PC, and will then publish its decision and notify the PC.
Assuming that the examiner recommends that the WNP can proceed then ENC will organise and pay for a referendum. The rules for the referendum are set out in the Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) Regulations. The question that the referendum has to ask is: “Do you want ENC to use the neighbourhood plan for Warmington to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?” (ENC may have to stipulate somewhere that any replacement authority must also have regard to the WNP if/when it is replaced by a North Northants Unitary Authority)
Anybody registered to vote in Warmington will be entitled to vote. A simple majority of votes (over 50% of those voting) in favour is sufficient to proceed.
Assuming a simple majority is achieved, ENC will adopt the WNP as part of the development plan. This may include policies in the WNP taking precedence over policies in the Local Plan, where they apply to the specific area covered by the WNP.
ENC will publish the WNP on its website and tell those who commented on the WNP. A hard copy may also be made available in the public library.
Implementation and monitoring
Once the WNP has been adopted, planning applications will still be determined by ENC in the normal way, but taking into account policies in the WNP as well as the Local Plan.
The PC may wish to monitor progress against the WNP. This will help to ensure that momentum is not lost, and that the aspirations of the community are met. The PC should also review the WNP regularly to keep it up-to-date and relevant.