What is a Neighbourhood Development Order (NDO)?
An NDO is a planning tool created by the 2011 Localism Act that enables communities to shape development in their local area. Like an approved planning application, it grants permission for a specific development in a particular area. The permission may be in outline (with reserved matters) or in full, again like a normal planning permission.
The key difference between the two is that NDOs are proposed by local communities, as opposed to planning applications that are submitted by developers. And NDOs must pass an examination and referendum, rather than being determined by a planning committee. For that reason, NDOs are often prepared alongside neighbourhood plans as a way of implementing proposals in those plans.
The intent of an NDO is to create a win-win: aiming to encourage landowners and developers to bring about positive change in an area that the local community wants to see. You can find out more about NDOs here.
What is the Town Council proposing?
We are proposing four NDOs covering 19 brownfield sites in the Town Centre, The Yards, Waterside and Newtown. You can download a map of the sites here, or view them online using this map. Each NDO will set out the key development and design principles for the redevelopment of each site. The sites are a mix of vacant plots, car parks and older industrial and office buildings within the town and predominantly the town centre, which can all be put to better use for modern housing and employment.
This does not mean that parking and commercial uses will be lost, or that these sites will definitely be developed. We want to maintain other uses in the town and will be mixing new homes with commercial and other uses, seeking to move parking into underground or multi storey car parks. The NDOs cannot force landowners to redevelop the land, but they will hopefully encourage them to over the next decade or so.
We will engage with all the relevant land interests – owners and occupiers – to understand how each site can be redeveloped and how their existing uses can be relocated in the town and its local area. We will publish our proposals with the draft neighbourhood plan for consultation in spring 2023 and we expect the referendum on each NDO will be in early 2024.
Why is the Town Council proposing this?
We are preparing a new neighbourhood plan with the main aim of focusing future development in the town rather than extending it into the Green Belt and Chilterns AONB that surround us. Reusing brownfield land creates fewer demands on existing infrastructure, on our roads and allows us to tread more lightly and sustainably upon the planet whilst also supporting more activity and prosperity within Chesham’s precious town centre.
We know we need to plan for more homes in Chesham for our younger generation who are increasingly struggling to buy or rent their own homes as constrained supply drives up prices. But where will new homes go? How do we avoid them spoiling Chesham? And how do we secure a modern, competitive and sustainable local economy with opportunities for all?
Our neighbourhood plan policies will aim to answers these important questions with the NDOs showing the details of how change will be controlled so what is built is of the highest quality.
What is the process?
The process has seven stages:
Consultation is already underway with online surveys, in-depth interviews and events such as Peace in the Park and Christmas in Chesham. This will continue.
Create Streets are currently developing the ‘design code’, a document that will set out the types of homes and streets that can be built, including details such as materials, window types and doors. This code will essentially be a design ‘toolkit’ that can then readily be applied, if desired, to sites across the town. A major part of this design code will be a pattern book of house types that have been co-created with, or approved by, the local community (Steps 1 - 3). You can find out more about design codes by watching this short video.
The next step will be to use the design code to inform site-specific policies in the draft neighbourhood plan and to describe the development proposed for each of the NDO sites that will be in strict accordance with those policies. The plan and NDOs will then undergo a formal public consultation period (Step 4). The proposals will then be reviewed and finalised for a second consultation, this time by Buckinghamshire Council (Step 5), and will then be reviewed by an independent examiner (Step 6). Finally, the NDOs will be subject to a local referendum (Step 7), and if successful, the orders will come into force shortly afterwards. Nothing is decided yet!
What work has been done to date?
Create Streets have been busy undertaking wide engagement, through their online mapping tool Create Communities, and deeper engagement with stakeholder groups and through joining events such as Peace in the Park. The findings from these surveys and discussions have been used to inform the creation of the design code, along with the results of the Neighbourhood Plan survey from May 2022. The survey’s findings can be summarised as:
- Intensification: People are supportive of the idea of building on car parks and brownfield sites, especially if the green belt is protected and it brings more people into the town centre, but there is a desire to see parking levels maintained.
- Character: New homes should feel like they belong in Chesham. The town has a distinct character, more industrial than nearby towns, and people love the Old Town and the old boot factories. The Bagnall Centre was identified as a particularly well-loved building. Choice: There is a lack of housing options. Chesham needs more family sized homes, but there need to be options for downsizers and young people too. People would like to see new terraced homes rather than detached homes and flats.
- Traffic: St Mary’s Way and Star Yard are seen as major barriers between the town and the park. There is too much traffic and walking and cycling are dangerous.
- Nature: The proximity of the Chilterns and views from and across the town are very important, and the River Chess is recognised as a precious resource that needs protecting.
- Infrastructure: People want to see new communities and facilities created, not just new housing. New parks, schools, shops, and amenities should be included.
A range of house types has been developed, and feedback on the initial types has been very positive, with up to 80% of people approving the proposals. The initial types are shown below. More will be published soon. Obviously, different homes will work in different places.
Above: Proposals for townhouses and warehouse style flats
What about the Chesham Masterplan and the Regeneration Strategy?
The proposals have been worked up in consultation with the Buckinghamshire Council team leading the regeneration strategy and are intended to complement their vision and proposals. The proposals do not prevent the vision and proposals in the Chesham Masterplan being realised and should, in fact, provide an enabling mechanism for delivering some of the sites in the masterplan.
How can I get involved?
Create Streets and the council are hosting regular drop-in sessions at the Town Hall and online where you will be able to speak to the team and suggest ideas. If you’d like to be kept in the loop, please sign up to the Neighbourhood Plan mailing list here. Create Streets have also produced plans for all the sites, they are available to download here. If you have any ideas for the sites, feel free to download a plan, sketch on your thoughts and send it back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is involved?
We have secured Government grant funding to commission Create Streets, a design-focused social enterprise who champion co-design and community-led development, and planning and development experts, ONeill Homer Ltd. Create Streets help neighbourhoods to create and steward beautiful and sustainable places which residents and neighbours can love for generations. ONeill Homer is the market leading consultancy supporting local communities to bring forward neighbourhood plans and NDOs. The team are also being supported by consulting civil and structural engineers Civic Engineers, and cost consultants Artorus. We are also working with officers of Buckinghamshire Council as the local planning and highways authority.