Neighbourhood Planning how to and useful links 

The neighbourhood planning process consists of the following stages:

1. Beginning your relationship with Dorset Council

There is support available to local communities preparing neighbourhood plans or development orders from Dorset Council. We will be there to provide technical support and will be the first point of contact for communities. More support can be found on the Locality website.

2. Designating the area

When you contact Dorset Council policy team we will discuss designating an area for your neighbourhood plan.

3. Designating neighbourhood forums

Where there is no town or parish council the community needs to set up a neighbourhood forum to develop a neighbourhood plan. Once designated, the forum will remain designated for five years, unless withdrawn. For further information on setting up a neighbourhood forum please contact the Spatial Policy team.

4. Getting started and building a relationship with your community

This stage involves getting financial support. Central government has provided a support package for community groups undertaking neighbourhood planning, this includes a grant and optional technical support.

Further information on the current funding, advice and guidance is on the Locality website.

Following this, you'll gather evidence and consult with your community about the opportunities and issues in your area. This will help you decide what to focus your plan on. It is important you fully consult with your community as for the plan to be successful, you will need people to vote in favour of adopting your plan.

5. Preparing the draft Neighbourhood Plan

Following consultation, you'll know what improvements or protection your community would like and you can focus your attention on these areas. Gathering evidence on these issues will be important, you can generate your own and/or you can work with Dorset Council and use existing evidence to inform your plan.

Once you have this information, you can think about policies to help shape your area.

This is where you will draft your plan.

You will also need to complete a Strategic Environmental and Habitats Regulations screening assessments, known as SEA and HRA respectively. You may need to follow this up with a full SEA and HRA report. Locality offers technical grants to allow this work to be commissioned. Here is the old North Dorset neighbourhood plan page telling you more about SEA's and giving examples of SEA determinations.

6. Formal consultation

Once you have a draft plan, you'll carry out a formal consultation, called 'regulation 14', with your community and statutory consultees.

Following this, and having considered the consultation responses received, you may want to make changes to your plan before finalising it for submission to Dorset Council.

7. Submit to Dorset Council

When you are happy with your plan and have taken into account comments received to your formal consultation, you will submit your plan and supporting evidence to Dorset Council. We will then carry out another consultation called 'regulation 16'.

8. Examination

After we have finished our consultation, we will submit the plan to an independent examiner. He /she will examine the plan and consider whether it meets the basic conditions relating to neighbourhood plans. The examiner will also recommend whether the plan should proceed to referendum.

9. Referendum

Upon finishing a successful examination, the Council will hold a referendum in your neighbourhood plan area. You will need to achieve 50% majority of support from your community for the plan to be formally made and used to determine planning applications.

10. The official making of the plan

The plan will then go before full council and be formally 'made', (adopted) by the Council, meaning it will be used to determine planning applications in your area.


Parish Councils who have not already done so can sign up to the Public Sector Mapping Agreement in order to use our Ordnance Survey data without getting into any copyright difficulties.

Advice Note for Neighbourhood Plan Groups

Neighbourhood Plans must be in general conformity with the strategic policies of the Local Plan, and local planning authorities should set out clearly their strategic policies for the area.

This advice note has been prepared to draw neighbourhood plan groups’ attention to this issue and help them understand which policies of the adopted North Dorset Local Plan (2016) and adopted West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland Local Plan (2015) we regard as strategic.

Planning Policy

Name: Planning policy team
Name: Dorchester office
Tel: 01305 838334
Full contact details