Neighbourhood Plan – What’s in it for us?
Neighbourhood Plans have been introduced by Government to encourage local communities to have a much greater say on community planning. This means the future development of Eight Ash Green would be in our own hands, rather than with third parties such as Developers, Colchester Borough, Essex County Council or Central Government.
Eight Ash Green already has a Parish Plan and Village Design Statement. These were put in place following a detailed and lengthy consultation with villagers, and completed by village volunteers. Both were adopted by Colchester Borough Council as supplementary planning guidance. They provide an aspirational plan for the future of our village, but they are not intended to specify the extent and location of future development.
The 2017-2032 Borough Local Plan
Colchester Borough Council has just started work on the Borough Local Plan for 2017-2032, which entails finding sites for some 16,000 new homes. Several local land-owners see Eight Ash Green as ideally situated for large-scale development, and have made representations in the initial call for development sites. Unless tightly controlled, we could see 600 to 1000 new houses being built by 2032, which would completely change the character of the Village.
If we have a Neighbourhood Plan, local people will be able to influence the extent of development, where that development takes place, and what other infrastructure should be provided. However, “No Development” is not an option. All villages will be asked to take some development to provide for their local needs, typically 20 – 50 homes between 2017 and 2032, according to the size of the village.
So the first action is for the Village to decide whether it wants a Neighbourhood Plan. If it does, then a Plan will be produced by the Parish Council but we need volunteers to help us. A Neighbourhood Plan will determine the future development of our community and the additional facilities that should be provided.
If we decide not to proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan, then the decisions on any future development in our Village will be imposed on us by Colchester Borough Council or by Central Government.
What is the Neighbourhood Plan and Why Bother?
A Neighbourhood Plan would be based on the proven evidence-based need for residential development, and a decision by the village on where it should be located. The Draft Neighbourhood Plan must be reviewed by a Government Planning Inspector, and adopted by the Village in a referendum. The Approved Neighbourhood Plan then becomes a statutory part of Colchester Borough Council’s planning policy.
The key points include:
- Acceptance that future development will occur, but any change will be greatly influenced by the approved Neighbourhood Plan.
- A focus on what the types, numbers and location of housing the village community believe is needed in the future.
- A demonstration that the plan for the future is both acceptable to the majority of residents and complies with legal statute.
- An acceptance that the Neighbourhood Plan means that the prospect of future development is linked to benefits that accrue for the community as a whole.
What if we do not have a Neighbourhood Plan?
Initially nothing will alter for a while, unless and until we become the target for developers. There has already been a presentation to the Parish Council by a major developer. For communities without a Neighbourhood Plan there is already a presumption in favour of the developer to build where they can show a need and or a reason to develop. Without a Neighbourhood Plan, development can be imposed upon the Village without taking into account the views of residents.
What happens next?
Before the Village can start producing a Neighbourhood Plan, we have to demonstrate to Colchester Borough Council that:
- We have consulted with the Village and there is a broad majority agreement in favour of producing a Plan.
- There is general agreement on the boundary of the plan (eg the whole Civil Parish, part of the Village, or just the central areas).
- The Parish Council has passed a resolution that the Neighbourhood Plan should proceed, and that it will be the statutory body responsible for the Plan.
For more information please take a look at the Neighbourhood Plan website here