A very successful and informative public meeting with about 50 parishioners present took place at 7.30pm at the Whitchurch Memorial Hall to launch the parish’s Neighbourhood Plan.
John Dixon, chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group outlined the purpose and structure of the meeting and then introduced Sally Tagg of Foxley Tagg, planning consultants based in Cheltenham who had been appointed to advise the steering group throughout the Neighbourhood Plan process.
Sally gave a very clear and concise presentation on the stages of the process from National, to County and then to Parish level. Neighbourhood Planning basically provides local parishes with the opportunity to have more control over developments that might in the future take place in their local area. In addition, Sally explained the differences between a Parish Plan and a Neighbourhood Plan.
During a break for refreshments, parishioners were invited to look at various displays around the room which had been prepared to explain the main themes to be considered for inclusion in the plan. In addition, people were asked to volunteer their services for any subject which was of interest to them.
We were then pleased to welcome our MP, Jesse Norman, who had responded to our invitation to attend, following a day in parliament. He addressed the issue of “Localism”, which had generated the whole process of Neighbourhood Planning.
John Dixon then summarised the events to date, namely the recent completion of the Parish Plan, the decision taken by the Parish Council to formulate a Neighbourhood Plan and its subsequent designation by Herefordshire Council and the initial phases that had taken place. A grant of £4,986 had been provided by the Community Development Fund and support and advice had been provided by Herefordshire Council. Additional funding is being sought from the Lottery Funding “Awards for All” to allow the process to be continued and in the meantime work will continue on the formulation of task groups and the commencement of evidence gathering.
Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead.
Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community where the ambition of the neighbourhood is aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.
Neighbourhood planning is not a legal requirement but a right which communities in England can choose to use.
Neighbourhood planning enables communities to play a much stronger role in shaping the areas in which they live and work and in supporting new development proposals. This is because unlike the parish, village or town plans that communities may have prepared, a neighbourhood plan forms part of the development plan and sits alongside the Local Plan prepared by the local planning authority. Decisions on planning applications will be made using both the Local Plan and the neighbourhood plan, and any other material considerations.
Neighbourhood planning provides the opportunity for communities to set out a positive vision for how they want their community to develop over the next ten, fifteen, twenty years in ways that meet identified local need and make sense for local people. They can put in place planning policies that will help deliver that vision or grant planning permission for the development they want to see.