A Neighbourhood Plan is a document which sets out planning policies for a local ‘designated’ area and is used by the Planning Authority, which for Cirencester is Cotswold District Council, to consider and determine planning applications.


The designated area for Cirencester is the electoral boundary, which includes the eight town council wards of New Mills, Abbey, Watermoor, Chesterton, St Michael’s, Stratton, Four Acres and the Beeches.


The purpose of writing a Cirencester Neighbourhood Plan is to add detail and clarity to existing planning policy and can supplement the Local Plan by introducing new planning policy on issues and needs which are covered by the adopted Local Plan, ensuring the Local Plan more fully reflects local needs.


No, a community led steering group has been set up by Cirencester Town Council to consult with the public and decide what type of planning policies are needed to address local planning issues in Cirencester.


Planning policies set the framework under which decisions on planning applications are made. They set out what development can happen, where, and how much there can be; forming the basis for promoting and managing appropriate development in an area.


Cotswold District Council has to give the same weight to a Neighbourhood Plan as it does to its own development plan policies; even emerging Neighbourhood Plans can be used to consider and determine a planning application.


There are various legal steps and processes which the community led steering group have to consider and consult on before the plan can be drafted and then adopted; it is currently estimated that the Plan will be adopted in the Summer 2022.


Firstly, the steering group has to consult the public to find out what the issues and concerns are, it then uses the feedback from this consultation to identify the type of planning policies needed to address these issues. A draft plan is written and is followed by two formal consultation processes Reg 14 and Reg 16.


The Reg 14 consultation is a six-week public consultation on the draft Neighbourhood Plan; this is also called the pre-submission consultation as it is prior to the plan being formally submitted to the local planning authority and independent planning inspector for consideration. A draft plan is expected to be written and available for public consultation in March 2021.


The Reg 16 consultation happens when the community led steering group has written the final plan, it then has to be submitted by a ‘qualifying body’ to Cotswold District Council. In this instance the qualifying body is Cirencester Town Council. Cotswold District Council’s role is to ensure that the final plan complies with all relevant legislation and publicises the plan for a minimum of 6 weeks, after which an independent examination takes place. It is expected that the Reg 16 consultation will take place sometime around December 2021.


A Neighbourhood Plan can only be prepared and submitted by a qualifying body; in this instance Cirencester Town Council is the qualifying body and the community led Steering Group has been set up to prepare the plan on the Town Council’s behalf. There are two types of qualifying body for a Neighbourhood Plan either a town and parish council or a neighbourhood forum made up of 21 individuals from within the area.

After the Reg 16 consultation, Cotswold District Council will appoint an independent Planning Inspector to exam the final plan; the role of the inspector is limited to testing whether or not the Neighbourhood Plan meets a set of basic conditions after which the plan will go to a local referendum.
Only a Neighbourhood Plan which meets a set of basic conditions can be put to a referendum and be adopted (sometimes referred to as being ‘made’). The basic conditions are set out in law under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and include having regard to national policies and advice, preserving listed buildings and their setting, preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a conservation area, conformity with strategic policies contained within the Local Plan and contributing towards sustainable development.
Whilst the Neighbourhood Plan is important in shaping planning policy for a local area, it cannot contradict or be at odds or detrimental to national planning policy or the Local Plan for the area. It can supplement the Local Plan where appropriate.

The referendum is an opportunity for local residents within the designated area, who are eligible to vote in an election, to vote on whether or not they want the plan to be adopted and ‘be made’ by Cotswold District Council and used to consider and determine planning applications.

If the majority of those who vote in the referendum are in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan then the Neighbourhood Plan must ‘be made’ by the local planning authority within 8 weeks. It is expected that the referendum would take place around Spring 2022.

If there is a no vote, then the plan will not be adopted or made.

It is not possible to estimate how much the process or writing the plan will cost. The Steering Group may need to find technical and professional support and undertake further work on gathering evidence.

Cirencester Town Council has set aside £20,000 per annum towards the cost of administering the process and writing the plan; Cotswold District Council will fund the referendum.

The Government has also made funding available through various grants. The Town Council has applied for, and secured, initial Government support of £3,500.

No, members of the Steering Group do not get paid; Town Councillors do not receive any allowances and the community representatives are volunteers.
The Town Council as the qualifying body would be responsible for ensuring that the planning authority considers and gives sufficient weight to the plan when considering or determining applications; compliance with a planning decision and enforcement falls within the remit of Cotswold District Council.
Whilst the purpose of a Neighbourhood Plan is to have policies which shape the future of a place over the longer term, it needs to remain compliant with other local and national planning policies; current guidance is that the plan should be reviewed after five years.

Yes, there are three types of amendment permissible:

Minor (non-material) modifications to a Neighbourhood Plan which would not materially affect the policies can be made. These may include correcting errors, such as a reference to a supporting document.

Material modifications which do not change the nature of the plan can be made but would require examination but not a referendum. For example, the addition of a design code that builds on a pre-existing design policy, or the addition of a site or sites which, subject to the decision of the independent examiner, are not so significant or substantial as to change the nature of the plan.

Material modifications which change the nature of the plan or order would require examination and a referendum. This might, for example, involve allocating significant new sites for development.

At the moment we have a full Steering Group and an Advisory Group. These consist of members of the public, elected Councillors and officers from the Town and District Council.

Should any vacancies arise we will publish these on our website and social media.

Please make the most of every opportunity to feed in comments and to ask questions; in March 2020 comment cards are being circulated to every household via the Cirencester Scene magazine, there will also be an online survey.

You can also subscribe to receive a newsletter which will keep you up-to-date; information about drop-in events and workshops will be circulated via social media, the website and local noticeboards.

E-mail us at: info@cirencesternp.org

Visit us at: www.cirencesternp.org

Sign up for the newsletter at: www.cirencester.org/signup

If you would like a member of the Steering Group to visit your organisation or community group, to share more about the process and opportunities to get involved please e-mail us at infor@cirencesternp.org

This development is now called The Steadings and has outline planning approval; the emerging Neighbourhood Plan will only have limited weight in respect of future planning applications.

Further information about the development can be found at: https://thesteadingscirencester.co.uk/

The Town Council and District Councils are in regular dialogue with the developer and are working together with the developer to establish a Community Management Trust which will look after a wide range of public assets and open spaces within the development.

Key messages continue to be that as far as is possible the development will be sustainable and deliver truly affordable living for Cirencester.

The Neighbourhood Plan cannot directly influence the number of houses which Cotswold District Council is required by Central Government to facilitate through the Local Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan has to be supportive in this respect.

However, the Neighbourhood Plan does have weight in determining where housing and employment land is designated.

The strategic site for The Steadings was allocated based on a community-led assessment process which at the time identified that a single site was better than multiple single sites across Cirencester in delivering 2,350 new houses.

The Town Council also commissioned independent planning advice which clarified that the majority of these new homes would be meeting the future need of Cirencester over the lifetime of the Local Plan.

The requirements on developers in respect of sustainable development need to be strengthened by the Government through the building regulations which falls outside the scope of the Neighbourhood Plan; however, we will be looking at every aspect of any concerns raised by the public relating to sustainability, flooding and wildlife to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan reflects this and where possible introduces necessary policy.

It is only through the strengthening of building regulations by the Government, that The Steadings (i.e. the strategic site at Chesterton) would be required to improve the sustainability of the development. This cannot be otherwise achieved now that outline planning permission has been granted.

The Neighbourhood Plan can designate land for a range of purposes and can also include design codes for future development.
Yes, whilst the Neighbourhood Plan has as much weight as a Local Plan policy it would need to considered alongside other material and non-material considerations, therefore there may be other factors which are taken in to account when determining an application. In such instances it is generally felt that the qualifying body should be able to appeal but for this to happen there needs to be a change in planning law.
The Neighbourhood Plan has limited scope in this respect as there are various external factors and policy guidance which influence this. During the process of consulting with the public and preparing an evidence base, if a specific local need is identified then we will do all we can to ensure that the policies with the Neighbourhood Plan help to support and facilitate meeting that need.