Neighbourhood Plans

It was great news when Arundel residents voted this week by a huge majority to back the town's new Neighbourhood Plan.  Of those who voted, 90 per cent were in favour.

Once it is adopted by the Town Council, the Plan will be used by Arun District Council to decide planning applications, which means that there will be a preference for the brownfield sites identified for housing, and strong protection for other greenfield sites and designated green spaces.

Arundel's neighbourhood plan was the first in Sussex to reach the crucial stage of a local referendum, and Kirdford's follows very soon, on Thursday 1 May.

Arundel and Kirdford are among the frontrunners in neighbourhood planning, which was introduced by the Localism Act 2011.  So far, nearly 1,000 neighbourhood plans have been started nationally, 19 have passed examination, and 10 have been adopted following referendums.

I've been a strong supporter of the Neighbourhood Plan process, which gives local communities the power to plan the future of their villages and towns, and lets local people decide where housing should go.

Towns and villages with an adopted Plan also benefit from receiving 25 per cent of the new Community Infrastructure Levy on development in their area, compared to only 15 per cent if they do not have a Plan.

Arundel and Kirdford have led the way with their completed plans which have passed the scrutiny of the examiner, paving the way for a local referendum.

Both plans covers a period of 15 years.  Arundel's allows for development of up to 90 houses; Kirdford's 50.  Given that Kirdford village currently has 226 households out of a total of 458 in the parish, this proposal shows that when communities are given power and responsibility, they will not be NIMBYs.

District councils, who have to set overall housing numbers, should note this.  They and the Planning Inspectorate should respect neighbourhood plans as they are being drawn up, including when speculative development applications are submitted.  And unsustainable plans for new towns undermine this localism.

Other villages and towns across West Sussex are currently drawing up their plans, and many more are expected to go a referendum during the next 12 months.  I strongly encourage this, because Neighbourhood Plans are really important.  They  give communities control over development and their area's future: power to local people.

Christopher N Howarth