Hackleton Parish Neighbourhood Plan
Steering Group Update
During the last month, the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group has met on three occasions.
On July 23rd we met with our consultant, Michael Wellock, to outline the findings from the Open Day event on June 2nd and to discuss the way forward. The two main tasks ahead are to conduct a Housing Needs Assessment and, following that, a Call for Sites Assessment.
Our application to have a (free) HNA conducted by Locality, the government sponsored organisation, has been accepted, and the work has already begun. We were pleased to learn that we will be consulted in this process; previously it was a case of waiting for the result, without any consultation. It will be useful to us to learn how it is carried out.
The Call for Sites exercise will follow logically from the HNA. This task will be challenging, but we have guidelines from SNC’s document on the subject. We could also apply to Locality for them to conduct the task. This has to be done with full consultation in order to demonstrate that we have conducted an objective assessment. If we fail to do this, speculative developers would be able to challenge our decisions.
On July 30th the Steering Group met to consider the sites from 2014 that were included in the presentation on June 2nd. This was a preliminary exercise to the task itself, which will be conducted when the results of the HNA are known. In theory, any site can be considered, but the rigorous process will involve consultation with landowners, developers and the community. In the meantime it is possible that some exploration of the availability of potential sites will be carried out. Infill remains the preferred option, but opportunities for that are becoming ever more limited.
This does not mean that there will be no work on the Plan while the above is carried out. There are several other parts of the Plan that are important, particularly to do with wildlife, important buildings, open spaces, design, the linking of footpaths to ensure access to all parts of the countryside, and so on. We have started to check out sources that will help us to progress. The hiatus in the housing issue will afford us the time to develop these aspects of the Plan.
I had a meeting with Ellie Gingell, SNC Senior Planning Officer (Neighbourhood Plans) on August 7th to talk through the issues around housing and other aspects of the development of the Plan. This was a very supportive and informative meeting which confirmed that – according to the requirements of the new National Planning Policy Framework – we were on the right track.
With regard to Local Government Reorganisation, we believe we should complete the Plan before any potential impact from LGR comes about. This could be very significant, given the news today that the decision has been taken to merge SNC, DDC and Northampton into one Unitary Council. I would like to remind you that our intention is not to be nimby: hundreds of houses within our parish boundary are built / being built / planned in the NRDA, to support the Borough Council; also, we will be identifying housing needs and sites as appropriate in our villages to keep them sustainable.
Finally, we are optimistic that the first draft of our Plan will be presented to SNC next spring. There is no fast track in the process of achieving our goal, neither should there be. We have to consider the history, concerns and future of the community. The members of the Steering Group are not full-time employees, but we are committed to maintaining the momentum.
This is a complicated, demanding process, and I wish to thank my colleagues for their time, enthusiasm, insightfulness and good humour in making it also a rewarding process.
17th August 2018.