Three parish councils have been chosen to pilot a new way of shaping how their communities will develop.
Situated in Northumberland's North Tyne Valley, the parishes have been chosen by the government to be a "Front Runner" of Neighbourhood Planning.
Bellingham, Tarset with Greystead, and Wark Parish Councils have joined forces to create a single Neighbourhood Plan in the North Tyne.
The Localism Act 2011 sets out key measures for decentralising power in England to the lowest possible levels.
In planning matters, this will be delivered through neighbourhood planning, placing decisions that shape development in the hands of local people.
By taking part, residents, local groups and businesses will be able to create planning policies for development and land use.
The community will be able to decide where new homes, shops and offices should be built, and influence how new buildings will look.
The initiative has been awarded £20,000 to facilitate the plan, one of 126 Front Runners taking place in England and one of only three in Northumberland.
Barry Iveson, chair of Tarset with Greystead Parish Council, said it was clear that the coalition government was determined to alter the planning laws
He added: "This is an opportunity for local people to make a contribution to how this is developed."
To mark the beginning of the process each parish council will be hosting a drop in session to provide more information about neighbourhood planning.
Anne Hutchinson, chair of Wark Parish Council, said: "Unlike parish plans, this will be a document with real clout.
"Neighbourhood Planning has been created under a new Act of Parliament and the planning authorities have to help and have to act on what we decide".
Once completed, the plan will be subjected to independent assessment before being adopted by both local planning authorities.
It must then be accepted by the local voters in a referendum. It will then form part of the local planning framework and help guide and control development.
The National Park Authority will provide technical advice and staff to support a steering group of parish councillors, with help from the county council.
But all decisions on the policies within the plan will be made by local people.
Jim Thompson, chair of Bellingham Parish Council, said the initiative was an opportunity for the community to have a stronger voice.
"It's their plan and I encourage everyone to make the most of this opportunity by coming along and making their views known."
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