On 2 August Parliament approved the Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) Regulations 2012, setting out how referendums for neighbourhood planning are to be conducted and the questions to be asked.
The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 came into force back in April this year and confer powers on designated community groups ('neighbourhood forums') to plan and permit certain local development without the need for planning applications. Neighbourhood development plans, neighbourhood development orders and community right to build orders must however pass a referendum before taking effect and so have been dependent on the regulations on referendums coming into force.
The regulations specify three straightforward questions to be asked, in line with a report by the Electoral Commission that the questions initially proposed were too long and technical. The questions are:
- Do you want [name of local planning authority] to use the neighbourhood plan for [name of neighbourhood area] to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?
- Do you want the type of development in the neighbourhood development order for [name of neighbourhood area] to have planning permission?
- Do you want the development in the community right to build order for [name of neighbourhood area] to have planning permission?
The Electoral Commission report also found there was a general lack of understanding of new neighbourhood planning policy. It will therefore be essential for authorities to publicise the referendums with plenty of explanation about neighbourhood planning and the implications of the specific development proposed in each case.
Separate regulations will apply for referendums in a neighbourhood area that is designated as a business area and these are yet to come into effect.