Local Plans are prepared in a series of stages, with opportunities for comment at each stage. Consultation takes several different forms and may include public displays, public meetings, and questionnaires on plans. The plans are available on local authority websites, in libraries and at council offices. Following a final consultation, a Government Inspector will assess the plan and will make recommendations of any changes that are necessary to bring it into line with current government guidance, before the plan is adopted.
Comments from community groups and individual members of the public, together with those of bodies such as Norfolk Wildlife Trust, will be taken into account by local authorities when drawing up areas to be zoned for development and areas that should be protected from development. Local authorities also have to take account of proposals that developers have sent in for housing and for commercial and industrial developments and will have to publicise these along with their own preference for where development should be located.
It is easy to feel disheartened when responding to local plans as public comment rarely seems to change the major decisions, for where and how much development will be allowed. This is because Local Plans have to follow government guidance. Under current government guidance, local authorities may even have to allow development to take place in areas that aren’t in their Local Plan, if they are unable to demonstrate that they have enough land available for housing.
However, within this context there is still much to play for and NWT and other conservation bodies have achieved much success over the last ten years in ensuring that Local Plans contain policies to protect the most valuable wildlife sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and County Wildlife Sites
. As a result, every Local Plan in Norfolk has strong policies protecting these sites and these have been successful in preventing wildlife sites being developed. We will never stop some developers seeking to build on wildlife sites but can use this policy backing to strongly argue our case.
Neighbourhood Plans are new type of plan that arose from the Localism Act 2011. They can be developed by parish and town councils. These plans are being developed in a number of areas in Norfolk, particularly large parish or town councils on the urban fringes. They allow for local communities to make decisions on the location of local services and open space, including natural green space. However, they are required to be in line with the relevant Local Plan and cannot be used to change the level of development that was agreed in the Local Plan. For more information ownload the factsheet Advice on incorporating biodiversity in Neighbourhood Plans