Plan making - Neighbourhood planning and SA/SEA

Archived April 2016. This page will no longer be updated.


Neighbourhood plans do not require SA...

There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about this. Our understanding is that neighbourhood development plans are not required to have a sustainability appraisal undertaken on them. But impacts still need to be considered as part of good planning. 

Sustainability appraisal of the type that is legally required for development plan documents is not required for neighbourhood development plans. This is because they are not ‘Local Plans', or development plan documents as defined by the 2004 Act. Neighbourhood development plans have their own designation: they are neighbourhood development plans produced by qualifying bodies under the Localism Act. Even when a neighbourhood development plan is 'made' by a local authority following a successful referendum, and it becomes part of the development plan it does not change its designation into a development plan document (this does not mean it has any less status in terms of decision making, though). Neighbourhood development plans are not required to undertake the type of sustainability appraisal required for a local plan.

What is advisable, is a review of the sustainability impact of a neighbourhood development plan, which could be necessary and useful for a lot of neighbourhood plans that are being produced to meet the basic conditions checked at examination. This does not mean that sustainability appraisals as used on local plans are required. It is good planning practice to check what the potential impacts of a planning policy will be on an area, helping to advise which potential options might be best; and doing this against the topics of social, environmental and economic impacts would make a lot of sense.

...but may require SEA

A neighbourhood development plan may require a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) under the EU regs – but this will depend on the content of the neighbourhood plan. It is a very good idea for the local authority to undertake an early SEA screening of the plan to highlight if a SEA will be required. If it is required, it needs to form part of the document that is consulted on. The local authority is required to undertake the SEA screening and there is advice available on undertaking an SEA screening.