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Neighbourhood planning consultation and publicity coronavirus guidance

The Government's guidance on neighbourhood planning was last updated on 13 May 2020 and supersedes any relevant aspects of current guidance, GOV.UK: Neighbourhood planning guidance

The advice on referendums is that all neighbourhood planning referendums recently cancelled, or scheduled to be held, between 16 March 2020 and 5 May 2021, are postponed until 6 May 2021 at the earliest and the Council's Electoral Services team will arrange an alternative referendum date after that time. 

On Decision-making: Where a decision statement has been issued by the LPA to send a neighbourhood plan to referendum, that plan can be given significant weight in decision-making, as long as the plan is material to the application.

On Examinations: Written representations to be used. And video conferencing or other suitable technologies will be used as advised by an independent examiner should oral representation be necessary.

On Public consultation: The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 (as amended) require neighbourhood planning groups and LPAs to undertake publicity to bring the neighbourhood plan to the attention of residents and businesses in the neighbourhood area at particular stages of the process.

As face to face engagement is currently unsafe, we have listed different methods that could be used to reach and engage with the wider community.

These methods can be used to meet the consultation and publicity requirements set out in Regulations 9, 14 and 16 and other stages for publicising decisions made during the production of a neighbourhood plan.

This guidance takes into account the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) notes on neighbourhood planning.

Council’s advice on how publicity and consultation can be carried out safely.

Local Authority and neighbourhood planning groups are advised to use the methods that are most applicable to their situation.

1. Publishing on your website or on your area of the Buckinghamshire Council website

2. Publishing/announcing on other social media platforms - Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, or groups like Nextdoor-Neighbourhood Apps etc.

3. Produce and post leaflets regarding the consultation to all the residents and businesses within the referendum area/parish council and give details of how to comment plus who can be contacted for more advice.

4. Make available phone lines to respond to queries and enquiries.

5. Have paper copies of the Plan available to distribute on request.

6. Have the plan/modifications posted on glassed and keyed noticeboards.

7. Publish the consultation notification on publications like the ‘Bucks Free Press’.

8. Place ‘wipeable copies’ such as laminated or in plastic wallets of the plan/proposed modifications at the local library or alternative office or facility along with the provision of disposable face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers to make it as safe as possible, in collaboration with the library/office/facility staff, to ensure the documents and its environs is sanitised and wiped clean after every use.

9. Phone or email small/local groups (eg allotment society etc.) to inform their members of the consultation.

10. Phone or email individuals on the NP consultation databases (if applicable).

11. Liaising with Community Boards to inform their members of consultation and publication materials.

12. Make use of the consultation hub: Your Voice Bucks.