Neighbourhood Plan – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the vote on the 6th May for?

Registered voters who live in Cottenham will be asked this question:

Do you want South Cambridgeshire District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Cottenham to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?

If a majority of those voting, vote “yes”, the Plan will be “adopted” by South Cambridgeshire District Council (SCDC).

Thereafter, when considering all planning applications for development in the area covered by the Plan, SCDC will be required to assess whether the application is in accordance with the Plan (as well as national planning guidelines and SCDC’s Local Plan).

The Neighbourhood Plan therefore will have a material impact on the determination of such planning applications.

What is a Neighbourhood Plan?

In very simple terms, a neighbourhood plan is:

  • A document that sets out planning policies for the Neighbourhood Area – planning policies are used to decide whether to approve planning applications
  • Written by the local community, the people who know and love the area, rather than the Local Planning Authority
  • A powerful tool to ensure the community gets the right types of development, in the right place.

What is the value and benefit of the Neighbourhood Plan to people living and working in Cottenham?

The Plan’s value is that it is the only way we as a community can directly, and proactively influence planning permission decisions affecting our villages and deliver on our villages’ collective priorities.

The Plan gives us a voice to shape our community that we do not otherwise have. The core policies of the Plan relate to:

  • Conserving the character (the ‘village character’) of the village as an attractive, safe community, taking into account our landscape, heritage assets and local green space.
  • Making housing more suitable for the next generation of residents and looking at the design of large sites.
  • Improving amenities and facilities i.e. village hall, nursery, medical centre and burial grounds.
  • Encouraging employment opportunities – including rural employment.

All individuals and the Parish Council as a consultee can comment on individual planning applications currently. However, in the absence of a Neighbourhood Plan, when SCDC considers a planning application its first responsibility is to determine whether or not the application complies with national planning guidelines and SCDC’s district-wide Local Plan.

If the Neighbourhood Plan were adopted, SCDC would also have to consider its policies, thus giving voice to the priorities of our community. This will apply even if SCDC loses its 5-year land supply; the event which led to the speculative development of 500 additional houses in Cottenham recently.

What is the definitive version of the Neighbourhood Plan?

Version 7.1: Referendum version. You can find it on our website: Neighbourhood Plan – Cottenham Parish CouncilCottenham Parish Council (

Why aren’t recent changes in the villages reflected in the Plan?

The Plan was developed over several years following a process laid down in law. Following the Independent Examination in December 2019, the Neighbourhood Plan was finalised with the intention that its adoption would be put to the vote in May 2020.

As part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government postponed all such votes until 6th May this year.

The Plan has not been updated as it will be in effect until 2031 over which period there will be a number of changes in the villages. Such changes can be captured when the Plan is reviewed.

People commenting previously on planning applications have referred to the Plan. Does the Plan have any relevance before the vote?

Yes. Following adjustment in line with the Independent Examiner’s requirements, the local planning authority, SCDC, has had to give the Plan “significant weight” when determining planning applications in advance of the vote (since the cancelled referendum).

How have people living in the community been consulted?

The Parish Council first sought opinions on the value and possible content of a neighbourhood plan in autumn 2015. A working party was set up consisting of Parish Councillors and a District Councillor, with input from planning consultants, an architect, a Neighbourhood Plan Examiner, the Planning Policy Team at SCDC and many others.

A professional research company, Enventure, ran a parish-wide survey in December 2015, with the key findings presented to Council in March 2016.

Draft policies were prepared accordingly and the pre-submission Plan was consulted on in summer 2017; the policies were further modified as a result. Subsequent ‘out of plan’ planning permissions in late 2017 and early 2018 necessitated a significant revision to the Plan.

A ’Regulation 14’ full consultation with residents on the draft Neighbourhood Plan was undertaken in June 2018.

The revised Submission Plan and its supporting documents were submitted to the independent examiner with the final report received in December 2019.

What happens if the vote is against adopting the Neighbourhood Plan?

Should the vote go against adopting the Plan, none of the policies in the Plan will be in force.

As a result, when SCDC determine planning applications they will have no obligation to take account of the views which have been put forward by members of the community and captured in the Neighbourhood Plan.

Instead, SCDC will assess planning applications for Cottenham against the UK government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and SCDC’s South Cambridgeshire Local Plan.

It should be noted the Local Plan reflects a broad view of planning priorities across South Cambridgeshire. So, while it does capture some aspects of specific interest to Cottenham, in some matters the policies will reflect more the interests of other communities in the District – but these will nevertheless be used to judge suitability of development in our community.

If the vote is in favour of adopting the Neighbourhood Plan, under the National Planning Policy Framework (paragraph 30), the Neighbourhood Plan policies take precedence over existing ‘non-strategic’ policies in the South Cambridgeshire Local Plan, until such time as they are superseded by local plan strategic or non-strategic policies.

Will South Cambridgeshire’s Local Plan be replaced soon?

Work is currently underway on replacing SCDC’s Local Plan with a Greater Cambridge Local Plan. It is possible this will dilute further Cottenham’s interests when planning applications are considered as the Local Plan policies will be framed in the wider interest of both Cambridge itself and the South Cambridgeshire District.

The UK government has proposed changes to the planning system. What is the future prospect for a Neighbourhood Plan?

In the August White Paper “Planning for the Future”, the government’s Proposal 9 stated “Neighbourhood Plans should be retained as an important means of community input …”.

Of course, over time the form and content of neighbourhood plans may change. The Cottenham Neighbourhood Plan, if adopted, would be used in determining planning applications locally for the foreseeable future.



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