The Localism Act received Royal Assent in November 2011 and comes into effect on 1st April this year. Amongst many other things, it creates a framework for neighbourhood planning.
There is no requirement for all neighbourhoods to have a plan, and there are formal steps including a referendum and tests to ensure compliance with national planning guidelines and BANES plans required to create one. But once formally adopted a Neighbourhood Plan will carry the same weight in decision making as plans prepared by the local authority. In areas with Parish or Town Councils, these will be the only bodies able to prepare such plans. Within Bath, which does not have that layer of administration, preparation of plans can be only be undertaken by a new entity created by the Act “Neighbourhood Forums”. No decision has yet been reached on which areas might have Forums or how these would function.
The Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations (FoBRA) has a sub-committee constructively engaging with BANES on such issues such as safeguards against hijacking by commercial or other vested interest groups and ensuring transparent, inclusive involvement. TARA is represented on that sub-committee. BANES cabinet is scheduled to consider a report on the Act from council officers on 14th March. The FoBRA sub-committee is registering to address that meeting and will be responding to a subsequent consultation paper expected to be issued by the Council in April/May with a view to firm decisions in July.