what is a neighbourhood plan?

1.1      A Neighbourhood Plan is a document which is drawn up at a community level, and which gives the community the direct power to develop a vision for its neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of the local area.  For this Neighbourhood Plan the whole parish of Saffron Walden has been designated as the ‘neighbourhood area’. This includes both the town of Saffron Walden and the hamlet of Little Walden. Unless otherwise specified, references to “Saffron Walden” encompass the whole parish.

1.2      A Neighbourhood Plan has legal status within its Local Planning Authority Area (Uttlesford).

1.3      Once a Plan is “made” (has been voted for by the community), all new development and growth should meet the requirements of the Neighbourhood Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan lasts for 15 years, after which time it should be reviewed. It can be reviewed at any point before the 15 years is up, if appropriate to do so.

1.4      Government guidance on Neighbourhood Plans states that “A neighbourhood plan attains the same legal status as the Local Plan once it has been approved at a referendum. At this point it comes into force as part of the statutory development plan. Applications for planning permission must be determined in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise (see section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004).”


1.5      There is a hierarchy of development plans.

1.6      At the top is the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It was first published in 2012 and was last updated in February 2019. Written by the Ministry of Housing communities and Local Government, it sets out the Government’s planning policies for England, and how these should be applied. From time to time the planning policies are adjusted and it can be considered that planning regulations are immediately updated as these adjustments are made.

1.7      In the middle is the Local Plan (LP). This is written by the District Council (Uttlesford in the case of Saffron Walden). It takes into account the general policies of the NPPF and sets out the District Council’s planning policies for Uttlesford, and how they should be applied. The SWNP refers in places to the emerging Local Plan (eLP) and to the current 2005 Local Plan.

1.8      At grassroots level, a Neighbourhood Plan sits beneath these two. A Neighbourhood Plan cannot contradict either the National Planning Policy Framework or the Strategic (key) Policies in the Local Plan.


1.9      The core purpose of a Neighbourhood Plan is to plan for future residential and commercial building development. This includes the locations that will be acceptable, the types of buildings that can be constructed, and stipulations on build standards and aesthetics. 

1.10     It sets out focused, specific and appropriate planning policies for the Neighbourhood, with a level of local detail that would not be possible at national or district level.

1.11     A successful Neighbourhood Plan makes it very clear what sort of development the community wants, and therefore adds greater clarity and definition to local needs, providing evidence-based polices for planning committees and other decision-making bodies. It also provides early guidelines on what the community expects from developers.


1.12      “Provided a neighbourhood development plan or order is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. If the plan is approved by a majority of those who vote, then the local authority will bring it into force.” – A Plain English Guide to the Localism Act – Communities and Local Government Publication.

1.13      Saffron Walden Town Council is the designated authority able to prepare a neighbourhood plan in Saffron Walden.

1.14      The Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group was established in 2016 and individuals and groups either volunteered or were invited to be part of the NP process. The NP team includes Town Councillors, Town Council officers and a number of local volunteers, each with specialist knowledge including local heritage, architecture, infrastructure, commerce and the arts. The wide range of skills, experiences and interests of the team helps to ensure that there is a fair and diverse representation of views and opinions helping to form the NP.

1.15      In accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan Regulations 2012 (as amended), this Plan must satisfy “basic conditions” before it can come into force. It must:

  • Have appropriate regard to national policies and advice contained in guidance issued by the Secretary of State;
  • Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development;
  • Be in general conformity with the strategic policies contained in the development plan for the area of the authority (or any part of that area);
  • Not breach, and be otherwise compatible with, EU regulations; and
  • Not breach the requirements of Chapter 8 of Part 6 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

1.16      In addition, this Plan must meet the prescribed legal requirements. This statement confirms that the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan 2019-2034 (referenced throughout this document as “SWNP”), which will be submitted by Saffron Walden Town Council, meets all the necessary requirements.


1.17     The SWNP Steering Group carried out quantitative and qualitative research into the core local issues to be addressed by the Neighbourhood Plan. This included:

  • Public consultation events which Saffron Walden residents were invited to attend and give opinions and suggestions;
  • Information stands at community events at which Saffron Walden residents were invited to give opinions and suggestions;
  • Feedback and comments from, the Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan website;
  • Information and updates in the local press and magazines;
  • Focus Groups, at which local experts were invited to submit concerns and suggestions regarding their professional fields;
  • Regular ongoing meetings with representatives of local organisations;
  • A report on the Heritage and Character Assessment of Saffron Walden written by AECOM;
  • Consultation with the Local Authority (Uttlesford District Council);
  • Review of Evidence and Background Studies which inform the preparation of the Uttlesford Local Plan;
  • The existing Uttlesford District Local Plan 2005;
  • The Uttlesford District eLP; and
  • Surveys sent to a long list of potential stakeholders in the following fields / areas of interest (listed here in alphabetical order) : Access/Disabled; Community groups; Developers; Education providers; Economic planners; Emergency services; Environmental organisations; Faith organisations; Government bodies; Healthcare providers; Housing Associations; Local Government (elected members and officers); Sports providers; Transport organisations and Utility companies.

1.18     The Saffron Walden Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Statement details the input provided by stakeholders and research conducted by the Steering Group.


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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.