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Further information on Sustainability Appraisals

When setting out the vision and objectives for your Neighbourhood Plan, you need to take into account its social, environmental and economic effects on your area. The tool you use to do this is called a Sustainability Appraisal.

The vision and objectives for your Neighbourhood Plan (Step 3) should be informed by your Sustainability Appraisal. Government guidance suggests that a Sustainability Appraisal should be underpinned by a series of sustainability objectives and criteria, sometimes referred as the 'sustainability framework'. These are derived from an analysis of the social, economic and environmental issues and problems facing a plan area, taking into account international, national, regional and local policy objectives.

The sustainability framework provides a systematic way of appraising the draft plan, and reasonable alternatives to the draft plan. If in doubt, you can use the sustainability framework for the Local Plan as the starting point for developing your own sustainability framework. Your local planning authority can provide advice on this.

The sustainability framework can be used to appraise each of the options (as part of Step 4). This is achieved by deciding how each option is likely to perform against each of the sustainability objectives and criteria. It is common practice to use symbols, such as ticks (✔) and crosses (✗) to show whether the option would have a positive or a negative effect on each sustainability objective included in the sustainability framework. The greater the effect, the more ticks or crosses you could include.

For example, if you think that an option that delivers 30 new affordable homes will meet all the housing need in your community, you may decide to give it three ticks (✔ ✔ ✔) against the sustainability objective 'to meet the housing need of the neighbourhood'. If, on the other hand, one of the options for locating the affordable housing would mean losing a small amount of green space, you may wish to give it a single cross (✗) against the sustainability objective 'to protect open space and wildlife'.

If there is likely to be no effect of an option against a sustainability objective, it's OK to leave the appraisal blank (or include a zero '0' to show that you have thought about it but decided there would be no effect). If you are not sure whether the effect would be positive or negative, include a question mark '?'. It is helpful to include a short commentary for each option to describe how you came to your 'scores', and also to draw conclusions about which of the options performs best against the sustainability objectives and criteria.

The 'effects' of the policies and proposals with respect to each sustainability objective should be set out and considered under Step 5 (preparing your draft Neighbourhood Plan). If it's found that there are not many positive effects, or that there are negative effects against a sustainability objective, you should see if there are any improvements that can be made to the policies to make them perform better.

The results of the Sustainability Appraisal should be pulled together into a separate Sustainability Appraisal report, which should describe the effects of your draft Neighbourhood Plan and the options previously covered.

There are certain legal requirements on the information to be included in a Sustainability Appraisal report. It's recommended that you contact the local planning authority to ensure that your Sustainability Appraisal report has been prepared correctly.