The Government has been working to make the planning system simpler to understand and more responsive to development opportunities, rather than potentially acting as a barrier. 

This page highlights some of these key changes that have taken place to the planning system that give rise to Neighbourhood Planning.

This also page provides links to other websites where you can find out more information on particular issues.


 Neighbourhood Planning


In order to understand Neighbourhood Planning we must first step back to see from where it has evolved.

There are several key factors we need to be mindful of in order to understand Neighbourhood Planning sits in the grand scheme 

These factors will briefly outlined later down the page and are as follow

The Localism Act subsequently leads to;

National Planning Policy Framework  NPPF (National Level) which in turn leads to;

Local Plan (Borough Level) in Bedford Borough's case known as Local Plan 2032  then gives  rise to;

Neighbourhood Plan (Parish Level in Colmworth's Case)

The above not an exhaustive list but does contain the main policies that lead to neighnourhood planning.

So neighbourhood planning is a direct offspring from the Localism Act and as such is designed to give devolved powers to local people


The Localism Act


The Localism Act was introduced in November 2011.The aim of the act was to devolve more decision making powers from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils. The act covers a wide range of issues related to local public services, with a particularly focus on the general power of competence, community rights, neighbourhood planning and housing. The key measures of the act were grouped under four main headings;

  • new freedoms and flexibilities for local government
  • new rights and powers for communities and individuals
  • reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective
  • reform to ensure decisions about housing are taken locally.

The Department of Communities and Local Government published a Plain English guide to Localism Act.

Or you can view the full version (lastest)...  The Localism Act

The Localism Act is being taken forward through detailed Regulations and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which put in place the detailed guidance and procedures in support of these changes within the planning system, such as the Duty to Cooperate and Neighbourhood Planning. Some of these changes are covered in the NPPF section below.


National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)


The Government published the National Planning Policy Framework or ‘NPPF’ on 27th March 2012. This is a key part of Government reforms to make the planning system less complex and more accessible, to protect the environment and to promote sustainable growth.The NPPF replaces previous national guidance contained in 44 separate Planning Policy Guidance (PPG’s) and Planning Policy Statements (PPS’s). The supporting good practice guidance is still in place but is being reviewed by government

Aim of the NPPF:

At the heart of the new NPPF is the key phrase 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'. This means that development should not be prevented, provided that it is sustainable and does not affect vital local environmental protections.The Government believes that sustainable development can play three critical roles in England:

  1. An economic role – in contributing to a strong, responsive, competitive economy;
  2. A social role – in supporting vibrant and healthy communities; and
  3. An environmental role - protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment.

NPPF - 12 Core Planning Principles:

  1. Plan led – empowering local communities
  2. Creatively find ways to enhance and improve places where people live
  3. Support economic development - objectively identify and meet development needs
  4. Secure high quality design
  5. Promote vitality of urban areas, protect greenbelt, recognise special character and beauty of country side and support thriving rural communities.
  6. Support the transition to a low-carbon future
  7. Conserve and enhance the natural environment
  8. Encourage the re-use of previously developed land
  9. Promote mixed use developments
  10. Conserve heritage assets "in a manner appropriate to their significance"
  11. Manage patterns of growth to make full use of public transport, walking and cycling
  12. Take account of local strategies to improve health, social, and cultural well being.

The NPPF makes clear that the need for local authorities to have in place up to date development plans for their district. Development plans are now known as a ‘Local Plan’ which will from now on be the term used to describe the family of documents previously called the Local Development Framework (LDF).


Bedfords Local Plan 2032 


Bedford Borough Council is preparing a local plan that will set out how much growth there should be in the borough in coming years (housing, jobs and associated infrastructure) and where it should take place. Current planning policy documents look ahead to 2021 and this new local plan will extend the period that development has been planned for to 2032. It will also contain policies that will be used to make decisions on planning applications. In 2014 we carried out an Issues and Options consultation and a first 'call for sites'. Following on from this we completed a number of important studies and we asked for your views on how we have interpreted their findings at the end of last year. We also issued a second 'call for sites' which closed on 14th December 2015. We are now busy collating and analysing the responses we received. Those responses will be published later in 2016 alongside a draft local plan.

You can download the Bedford Bprough Local Plan 2032 and other relevant documents at the link below.


NPPF - The Local Plan 2032 and Core Strategy


In terms of the Local Plan (formally known as the LDF), and in particular the Core Strategy, the Council must take account of the NPPF in the plans that it is preparing to ensure that they are in accordance with national planning policies. The next stage of the Core Strategy, the Publication Draft, will take account of these changes.



So What is Neighbourhood Planning?


Neighbourhood planning is a right for communities introduced through the Localism Act 2011. Communities can shape development in their areas through the production of Neighbourhood Development Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders.

Neighbourhood Development Plans become part of the Local Plan and the policies contained within them are then used in the determination of planning applications. Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders allow communities to grant planning permission either in full or in outline for the types of development they want to see in their areas.

It must be stressed that the policies produced cannot block development that is already part of the Local Plan. What they can do is shape where that development will go and what it will look like.

Neighbourhood planning is one of the community rights, along with the Community Right to Build, Community Right to Bid, Community Right to Challenge and Community Right to Reclaim Land. See the My Community Rights website for more information.


The Community Rights movement continues to go from strength to strength with latest figures showing more than 3,000 buildings, green spaces and other much loved local assets protected.

Local people are also having more of a say on what new developments should look like and where they should go with 1,800 neighbourhood plans now well underway.

To promote the programme, the government has produced an interactive map listing protected assets and other community rights uses throughout the country.


How does it work?


The local parish or town council will lead on neighbourhood planning in their areas. Where one does not exist then a community group known as a neighbourhood forum needs to be established to lead. The Localism Act recognises that not all communities are residential in nature and as such in areas that are predominantly commercial then a business led neighbourhood forum can be established.

The Local Planning Authority is involved and will make decisions at key stages of the process, such as approving the neighbourhood area within which the Neighbourhood Development Plan will have effect. It will also organise the independent examination of the plan and the community referendum that is held at the end of the process.

The referendum is an important part of the process allowing those that live in the neighbourhood area to decide whether or not the Neighbourhood Development Plan, Neighbourhood Development Order or Community Right to Build Order comes into effect or not. This is direct democracy and outlines the importance of working with the wider community and securing their support at an early stage in the process.

For more information about neighbourhood planning, see