The first stage in neighbourhood planning is the designation of a neighbourhood area. The proposed neighbourhood area will have to be formally approved by Cheshire East Council. Somerford proposed a Somerford Neighbourhood Area that was the same geographical boundary as Somerford Parish. Cheshire East Council after receiving the application formally publicise the application for 6 weeks and then consider any representation made before the designation takes place.
The second stage is preparing the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan. This is undertaken by the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group which has been appointed by Somerford Parish for this purpose. This will only be done after lengthy consultation with residents as the steering group is writing the plan on behalf of the residents so it is important to make sure that it truly reflects their wishes. To achieve this aim various consultation methods will be used including questionnaires, surveys and events where residents can meet the steering group and express their views.
Residents will be kept fully informed of the process through various media including newsletters, posters, banners and announcements in local papers. The result of this will be a Neighbourhood Plan and/or a Neighbourhood Development Order. A Neighbourhood Development Order is a means for a parish to grant planning permission to certain kinds of development in their area. A Neighbourhood Plan is a document that will be referred to for development in the future.
The third stage is the independent examination stage. It is the responsibility of Cheshire East Council to organize and cover the costs of the examination. An independent examiner will make sure that the plan covers the ‘Basic Conditions’ and other legal requirements. They may make suggestion to the steering group of any amendments needed before the plan can proceed to referendum.
The fourth stage is the referendum. This again is organized by Cheshire East Council. A date is set for the referendum and it is publicised by Cheshire East Council for 28 days prior to the event. Residents will then vote on the Somerford Neighbourhood Plan. If more than 50% of those residents voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’ then the neighbourhood plan is ‘made’ and it is brought into legal force.