MP urges villages to back Neighbourhood Plans
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has urged villages in his constituency to draw up Neighbourhood Plans in order to give people more control over development in their local area.
Speaking at a meeting in Storrington on Friday evening (28 June) called by residents concerned about development proposals in their village, Mr Herbert said that neighbourhood planning would give communities the power to set priorities for development, help to protect villages and "change the focus from what people don't want to what they do want."
The MP also reiterated his view that while new housing was needed, the numbers must be manageable given the inadequacy of local infrastructure and the need to protect countryside and the rural character of West Sussex. He said that he did not want the separate villages of West Sussex transformed into a suburban sprawl.
Under the Localism Act 2011 passed by the Government, the South East Plan - which previously set housing targets for West Sussex - has been scrapped. District Councils now have the power and the responsibility to determine housing numbers for their areas, but parish and town councils can also decide to adopt Neighbourhood Plans to determine where development should take place.
On Friday morning Mr Herbert met with Chichester District Councillor Josef Ransley who handed the MP a copy of Kirdford's Neighbourhood Plan, which was submitted last week.
Mr Herbert has also met with Angmering and Hurstpierpoint parish councils who are also progressing their plans well. Arundel Town Council published its pre-submission draft plan for consultation in May. Other councils are at an early stage of developing their plans, while others are yet to start.
A Neighbourhood Plan must still meet the needs of the wider area, which means they have to take into account the district council's assessment of housing and other development needs, but Neighbourhood Plans can shape where that development will go and what it will look like, identify what facilities are needed and protect areas from development.
Communities with a Neighbourhood Plan will 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.
Neighbourhood Plans are typically led by the parish or town council, but they rely greatly on the input of the community to support the process. Some parish councils have created community groups who meet regularly and provide the information needed to put in the Plan.
Once a Plan has gone through the stages of local consultation, and review by the local authority, it goes to a local referendum. If it is approved by more than half of those voting, it can then be adopted and becomes part of the statutory plan for the village. The Plan can then be formally used in making decisions on planning applications.
As an emerging Neighbourhood Plan moves through the process it carries more weight, and therefore becomes an important document for the protection of the village against unwanted housing. A village without a Neighbourhood Plan is more vulnerable to speculative and unwanted development.
In his meeting with Mr Herbert, Councillor Ransley spoke enthusiastically about how the neighbourhood planning process had engaged the Kirdford community, which had been hostile to random development in the village. Their proposed plan sets out where development can take place to accommodate 56 new homes and allocates green spaces, playing fields and a new community centre. It is now awaiting approval from the local authority, and will go through a further six week consultation period. After this a referendum date will be set.
Nick Herbert said: "Neighbourhood Planning presents a huge opportunity for local people. The process changes the focus from what people don't want to what they do want. It enables villages and towns to plan positively for their needs, and it benefits the community by protecting chosen areas from unwanted development.
"I strongly urge district councils and local people to get behind the new neighbourhood planning process to give them more control of their communities."
1. Kirdford's Neighbourhood Plan can be found at http://www.bankssolutions.co.uk/kirdford.
2. Arundel Town Council's pre-submission draft Neighbourhood Plan can be found at http://www.arundeltowncouncil.gov.uk/main.cfm?Type=NI&objectid=2763.
3. For a useful guide on neighbourhood planning see http://www.rtpi.org.uk/planning-aid/neighbourhood-planning/what-is-neighbourhood-planning/.
4. For official information on the neighbourhood planning policy see https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/giving-communities-more-power-in-planning-local-development.