WHAT IS A NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
The Official explanation
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led framework for guiding the future development of an area. It may contain a vision, aims, planning policies, proposals for improving the area or providing new facilities, or allocation of key sites for specific kinds of development.
Neighbourhood plans relate to the use and development of land and associated social, economic and environmental issues. It may deal with a wide range of issues (like housing, health, employment, transport, heritage and the countryside), or it may focus on one or two key issues that are of particular importance.
It will bring together residents, businesses, local groups and landowners to share ideas and build consensus about what the village needs.
A Neighbourhood Plan will be subject to examination and referendum and then form part of the Local Development Plan. This legal status gives the Neighbourhood Plan far more weight than some other local planning documents, such as village plans, community plans and village design statements.
A Neighbourhood plan provides the opportunity for local people to set out a positive vision for how they want to shape their community. They can decide on planning policies that will help deliver that vision or grant planning permission for the development they want to see.
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OK, so what is a Neighbourhood Plan really?
A Neighbourhood Plan is part of a cunning trick by government to get communities to accept more housing. Often, when big developments are proposed, local opposition and the planning system, delay or reject them, with the result that there are currently not enough homes to go round. So, government thought, why not get communities to decide for themselves whether they need more housing, and what type it should be, and give them financial incentives to permit it. This is what the Localism Act was all about.
This seemed inspired, as it emerged that many communities, especially towns that had fallen on hard times, were desperate for more housing and development that could bring jobs and kick-start an upward spiral of prosperity. Villages then began to realise that Neighbourhood Plans could also be used to protect themselves against unwanted and inappropriate development, while allowing housing and other projects that suited the needs of their residents.
How does a Neighbourhood Plan work?
At the moment, development is decided by the Local Planning Authority (in our case East Northamptonshire Council). They have a Local Plan called the Rural North, Oundle and Thrapston Plan (RNOT). This includes a special section for King’s Cliffe, which outlines where houses can be built, and how many, and allows for ‘windfall’ development (unforeseen applications). It also has a number of policies which District Councillors have to follow when deciding applications. At the moment King’s Cliffe Parish Council is consulted on such applications, but it has no control over final decisions. Our Neighbourhood Plan will be a local plan for King’s Cliffe that District Councillors will have to follow when making planning decisions in the future.
So how much control will we really have?
Well, it will be significant, but limited. As we have already discovered, if the government decide they want to site something of ‘national importance’ in our parish there is not a lot we can do about it. Nor can we contradict anything in the RNOT Plan. But any routine application for development that comes up during the lifetime of the Neighbourhood Plan must fit in with the policies in that Plan, and those policies are decided by us. Those policies can include the number, site, type and design of houses, retail developments, leisure and amenities, parking, protected views and buildings – that is, anything controlled by the District Council, but not aspects like roads which are outside its control.
Why do we need a Neighbourhood Plan for King’s Cliffe?
There is a lot of development earmarked for the district. Weldon is being surrounded by large-scale new estates, and a new village will be built shortly on the old Deenethorpe airfield. Northamptonshire is one of the fastest growing counties in terms of population, and we are sandwiched between the rapidly-expanding centres of Peterborough and Corby. Brigstock, Barnwell, Oundle and Deene are among the growing number which are undertaking Neighbourhood Plans at the moment. If we are not protected then we become an easy option for unwanted development.
How can you get involved?
The Plan depends on your involvement. The vision for the next 25 years will be decided by you, as will the aspects the Plan will cover, and the policies that will determine how the Parish will develop (and ‘Parish’ does mean the whole area, not just the village – see map of Parish). You are invited to attend meetings of the Steering Group, and to take part in any of the events and questionnaires designed to find out what you want. You are invited to comment on the Draft Plan before it is finalised, and to vote in the Referendum which will decide whether the Plan should be accepted. Full details of coming events will be on this website. As with any democratic exercise it is not so much the voice of the people that makes the decisions, but the voice of the people who bother to give their voice, so please get involved. If you don’t, then the future of your community will be decided by someone else.
Haven’t we done all this already?
The King’s Cliffe Village Plan, published in 2014, was an exercise in finding out the opinions and needs of villagers. The information gathered is being used to make improvements in the village – high-speed broadband, extra dog bins, better communication – and will also be used as an evidence base for planning policies in the Neighbourhood Plan. However, it carried no legal weight, and could not be used to determine planning decisions (although the Parish Council has referred to it on several occasions in its comments to the District Council). The questionnaire for the Neighbourhood Plan will be shorter and more targetted, and the responses you give will enable us to draw up a legal document. So please fill in, and return, the questionnaire when it appears.