Neighbourhood Planning Guidance and FAQ's

The following guidance and information has been prepared to provide advice for anyone wanting to know more about neighbourhood plans, neighbourhood development orders or community right to build, in the Milton Keynes Council Area.

Whilst the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012, which came into force on the 6th April 2012, should provide the starting point for anyone interested in proceeding with any of the three new initiatives, the following provides more in depth guidance which represents Milton Keynes Council’s current understanding of the process.

It is the intention that this guidance will be regularly updated as new information becomes available and in response to the experience of the frontrunner projects.

We have reviewed the approach that we take to providing Neighbourhood Planning support and have identified the key stages at which parishes need the greatest support. These stages are set out in the documents below:


Click on the relevant links below for more information.

1) What is a Neighbourhood Plan

2) What is a Neighbourhood Development Order [NDO]?

3) What is Community Right to Build?

4) Who can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan?

5) Does a Neighbourhood Plan have to cover the whole Parish area?

6) What are the benefits of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan?

7) Is a Neighbourhood Plan the best option?

8) What can go in a Neighbourhood Plan?

9) What is the process for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan and how long should it take?

10) Who should be involved?

11) Getting the community involved/engaged

12) What is the referendum process?


1) What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

A Neighbourhood Plan is a new type of community-led initiative which allows communities to create a vision and set out policies on the development and use of land in a parish or ‘neighbourhood area’.

Neighbourhood Plans would need to meet minimum criteria and have agreement of more than 50 per cent of local people that vote through a community referendum.

Once a Neighbourhood Plan has been completed it will become part of the Development Plan for Milton Keynes (subject to adoption of the plan by the Council) and will therefore become a material consideration within the planning system.

The following documents provide useful guides on Neighbourhood Plans:

Locality - Neighbourhood Plans Roadmap Guide (PDF, 1.3MB)

Locality - Quick Guide to Neighbourhood Plans (PDF, 392KB)

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2) What is a Neighbourhood Development Order [NDO]?

An NDO enables communities to grant planning permission for specific types of development they want to see go ahead in a particular area within the parish or ‘neighbourhood area’. This could be either a particular development, or a particular class of development (for example retail or housing).

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3) What is Community Right to Build?

Community Right to Build is a sub-category of Neighbourhood Development Orders. This right will enable community organisations to bring forward small scale, site specific, community-led developments, without the need to apply for planning permission.

Development proposals would need to meet minimum criteria and have agreement of more than 50 per cent of local people that vote through a community referendum.

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4) Who can prepare a Neighbourhood Plan?

In a parished area (Milton Keynes Council area is fully parished), the parish or town council initiates the neighbourhood plan, specifying the area to be covered by the plan. Where the area covers more than one parish, the consent of the other parish councils is required.

Whilst the neighbourhood plan will be initiated by the parish or town council, it should not be developed in isolation from the rest of the community. The involvement of the local community will be essential to the success of the plan.

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5) Does a Neighbourhood Plan have to cover the whole Parish area?

A neighbourhood plan does not have to cover the whole parish area – it will be for Milton Keynes Council to agree with the parish council the area to be covered by the plan.

It is however not possible for neighbourhood plans to overlap, i.e. there cannot be more than one plan covering an area.

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6) What are the benefits of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan?

Developing a Neighbourhood Plan can help communities to play a greater role in shaping the future of their area, offering them the opportunity to include their own local planning priorities and aspirations within the wider planning system.

It will bring together residents, businesses, local groups, landowners and developers to share ideas and build consensus about what needs to be accomplished, whilst also helping to create lasting partnerships both within and outside the community (for example with public service providers, local businesses or development companies).

As discussed in the next FAQ, Neighbourhood Plans may, however, not be appropriate for all communities.

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7) Is a Neighbourhood Plan the best option?

Neighbourhood Plans are not compulsory and indeed, for a number of reasons, may not necessarily be the best option for addressing the issues in some communities.

Before deciding to start the production of a Neighbourhood Plan the advantages and disadvantages of this route should be weighed against other options that are available to town and parish councils to achieve identified priorities for the area.

With Neighbourhood Plans requiring a formal examination and referendum, along with several stages of consultation, they are likely to be resource-intensive and expensive to produce, possibly making them less achievable for some areas. Whilst some help is available from Milton Keynes Council and from other sources, the process is likely to depend heavily on volunteers. Anyone considering undertaking a Neighbourhood Plan will need to be clear that enough people, with the necessary skill, knowledge and experience, are available with enough time and commitment to see the process through. It is also necessary to ensure that enough money can be found to carry out certain stages in the process such as consultation and production of evidence studies, which may need to be undertaken by professionals.

Aside from the possible financial and resource issues, a Neighbourhood Plan may also not be appropriate for addressing the issues raised in certain communities. Neighbourhood Plans can help address issues which are directly related to land use planning with an overall intention of encouraging rather than hindering new development.

Where issues do not relate to land use planning, other opportunities exist that may be more suitable at resolving local issues, such as the production of Parish or Community Led Plans and Conservation Area or via greater involvement in planning policy produced by Milton Keynes Council. The document provides a good starting point for useful advice and information on choosing the best route for addressing the issues in certain communities

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8) What can go in a Neighbourhood Plan?

The neighbourhood plan will have to fit with the strategic planning policies for the area. In the case of Milton Keynes these policies will be set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and the Milton Keynes Local Plan and the Core Strategy.

A neighbourhood plan can propose more growth for an area than that specified in the Local Plan or Core Strategy but not less. The plan can tackle any planning related issues – it can, for example, specify locations for new housing and other forms of development needed by the community as well as seeking improvements to roads, cycle and pedestrian routes; specify design and density of new housing development and protect important areas of open space.

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9) What is the process for preparing a Neighbourhood Plan and how long should it take?

The timetable set out in the link below is Milton Keynes Council's interpretation of the tasks that need to be completed to meet the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012.

As the first Neighbourhood Plans around the country make progress and the final regulations on parts of this process are finalised, more guidance or best practice examples may become available, and this timetable and advice may be updated to reflect that information. Therefore, the information included below may change and it is the Town or Parish Council's responsibility to ensure that their Neighbourhood Plan meets all statutory requirements, using this information as a guide only.

Neighbourhood Plan Process and Meeting the Regulations (XLS, 53KB)

The following documents also provide useful information and guidance:

Quick Guide to Neighbourhood Planning (PDF, 5.4MB)

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10) Who should be involved?

A Neighbourhood Plan should be community-led. In Milton Keynes the Parish or Town Council for the area will initiate and lead the process, but this should not mean they develop the plan in isolation from the rest of the community. The plan depends on local leadership and participation to be successful.

The involvement, throughout the process, of a broad range of local stakeholders will help to strengthen community support for the plan and make its implementation easier. Without this support, then it will be extremely difficult to produce a document that properly reflects their priorities and aspirations, and ultimately gets their support at a referendum.

It is therefore essential that the wider community is informed of the Town/Parish Council’s intentions and given the chance to get involved from the beginning. The following is a list of stakeholders that the Town/Parish Council should consider involving in the process:


•Community groups




At certain stages throughout the process, it will also be necessary to involve officers from Milton Keynes Council. This might be to provide advice, guidance or information, or to comment on the draft document (More details on the role of the Council can be found at).

It must however be noted that whilst the Council can offer support, the plan must be owned and produced by the local community. It is therefore essential that the skills and resources available to produce a plan are assessed at an early stage.

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11) Getting the community involved/engaged

As has been previously stated, it is essential, if the plan is to be successful, that the support of the local community is sought early and that they are kept engaged throughout the process. Key to this is plenty of good publicity and communication. If people are kept informed, they are more likely to participate.

Getting the local community involved at the very start of the process is important to ensure that the plan reflects their priorities and aspirations. Their involvement could for example be sought through:

•Holding a public meeting within the community, to explain the proposal to develop a Neighbourhood Plan, to identify broad issues that residents would like to consider, and to recruit community volunteers who would like to be involved in its production.

•The Town/Parish Council writing to local groups, organisations and businesses to notify them of their intentions and to identify the level of interest these groups may have in taking part in the Neighbourhood Plan.

Furthermore the Town/Parish Council should use as many available forms as possible to advertise the Neighbourhood Plan to provide the local community with information. This could include:

•Putting up posters

•Delivering flyers/leaflets

•Talking to neighbours, community groups, businesses etc

•Using IT – town/parish websites, social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blogs), email groups etc

•Regular notices in parish newsletters or magazines

•Contacting local media (e.g. press, radio, television)

A number of frontrunner schemes have also looked at more creative methods of communication and consultation, such as Bloomsbury Village Neighbourhood Plan’s Interactive Website.

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12) What is the referendum process?

Under the Localism Act (2011), local referendums must be held before statutory Neighbourhood Plans, Neighbourhood Development Orders or Community Right to Build Orders can come into force.

For the orders to be put into place, they would need to have agreement of more than 50 per cent of local people that vote through the community referendum.

On the 2nd August 2012, The Secretary of State made the Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums)Regulations 2012 and these came into force on the 3rd August 2012. These outline the regulations that must be followed for undertaking the referendum stage of any of the above Orders.

The Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) Regulations 2012 can be viewed here (PDF, 1.4MB)

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Last Updated: 16 September 2021