Neighbourhood Plans - not a task for the faint-hearted

When our village was identified as a potential area for development by a well-known land promoter it came as a shock to some. Being a small-ish (458 homes) rural conservation village with one pub, primary school and limited transport links, it was believed that the proposal for a large housing development would fail. 

Following the refusal of the application at planning committee, and a subsequent appeal, the Public Inquiry led to an Inspector awarding outline planning for up to 80 dwellings. This was due in part to the LA not being able to demonstrate a sufficient quota of five years’ land supply. The site was purchased by a local developer and public consultation began.

Once the dust had settled, the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan was broached with the parish council. If a Plan was in place, it could help the community influence future planning (identifying sites for development and even specifying what materials should be used), in conjunction with the LA’s Local Plan and NPPF.

A nearby village had almost completed their Plan and agreed to share their experience with us - helping inform residents of what was involved, and the level of commitment needed to take on the project. Even though not yet adopted, their Neighbourhood Plan had already helped influence a proposal on a site identified for development within their Plan, resulting in backing from the planning department.

All the village residents were consulted and asked to comment on a simple questionnaire. Although only 12% of residents eligible to vote responded, 84% were in favour of producing a Plan. There were numerous offers of help with a range of expertise to pool together enabling the Parish Council to take the project forward. 

A working group formed and a grant was secured to cover initial costs. The first task was to recommend the extent of the Neighbourhood Area - complicated slightly by having part of the grounds and estate of an historic house within the parish boundary. Following consultation with the estate, it was decided to mark the Neighbourhood Area to include all of the parish excluding the parklands.

The village was consulted once again through a questionnaire asking for key priorities and views within specific areas, from maintaining the rural and historic character of the area to promoting local employment opportunities and sustainable lifestyles. Overall, the response to the questionnaire was positive, leading the working group to begin the mammoth task of writing vision statements, themes and policies, along with applying for further grants, confident that the local community supported their objectives.

In conclusion, embarking on a Neighbourhood Plan is not a task for the faint-hearted.  It takes commitment, but with that the reward for the village should be a stronger voice in shaping future development proposals, along with a larger portion of CIL contributions for community projects, such as improved recreational facilities and traffic calming schemes. The working group hope to have their Plan submitted by the end of the year… Fingers crossed.

Susie Caney - Account Executive