By Cllr Roy Hawkesford
Neighbourhood Plan Update
27th February 2018
As you would expect, there has been a lot of activity over the past month and, according to our consultant, we are almost ahead of schedule… How can that be? We have been working hard to provide information for the development of the Plan – which is good – but we are at the point where we should engage fully with everyone about what we are working towards and seeking their thoughts on this and what they would like to see included.
As a result of this, the steering group will meet again on March 19th to decide how we will engage with the community. We will utilise material we have put together for the Draft Plan to make a 4/5 page more user-friendly presentation that can be circulated to every household in the parish. We will have to use professional assistance with layout and printing. We will then distribute the leaflets by hand. The leaflet will state that there will be times that the community can visit Hackleton Village Hall and/or Horton House CC to meet with us, see plans of the parish and the villages, ask questions and provide feedback. We will make it clear that their opinions are important to us. (We do not want to convey the impression that everything has already been decided… which it hasn’t!) Finally, we hope to have these meetings in April.
Since our last PC meeting, the grant has been confirmed. As this tranche of money has to be used by the end of March, we will be seeking to pay consultant’s fees and other expenditure associated with the Plan. Because we have to be rigorous in showing the awarding body how we are spending the money, we would ask the PC that we carry out our work without having to wait until the next PC meeting for approval. After all, we have only one month now in which to use the grant! I am hopeful that invoices for work being undertaken will be in place to meet the requirement of the awarding body. This will engage all concerned over the next few weeks.
The assessment of housing needs is proving to be contentious. SNC has a preferred questionnaire which could be sent to every household, which would provide feedback from which housing needs (what kind of housing, etc) could be assessed. There are arguments for and against doing this, given that SNC already has a 10 year land stock. I will try to explain this at the meeting, but it’s not as straightforward as it might appear.
Such a survey would have a shelf life of only three years and would have to be undertaken again. It might also provide a hostage to fortune for developers.
One thing we are agreed on, together with SNC, is that the preferred option for any additional building should take place within village confines. We might choose to identify areas for housing outside those confines, but only where there is a perceived need.
I have to say that this is the part of the Plan, which was always going to be most contentious and woolly. SNC prefer the idea of the LOAN (locally objectively assessed needs) saying that it is more robust because they can defend it against developers. The alternative view is, as I said earlier, that it is unnecessary as SNC has ample provision in the pipeline.
Green/Open spaces and Wedges
Identifying these is, again, not a simple task. They are described in SNC documents, but interpretation of them on the ground is fraught with difficulty. It’s easy, say, to identify Longlands Meadow as a green space; it’s not s easy to identify green wedges. Ellie says they should be defensible, so we should keep them focussed. I think it’s not too difficult to identify wedges between Horton and Hackleton, Hackleton and Piddington, and between the latter two and Preston Deanery. We might need to be more creative to identify one on the far side of Preston Deanery – to clearly separate Preston Deanery from Wootton Fields.
Also, there is the issue of Wootton (St George’s) Fields. Because this is part of the expansion for the Borough, our responsibility and influence in that area is unclear. It is, however within our Neighbourhood Area, and I will argue that we should continue to consider that part of our parish formally within our Plan.
Maz Woolley has spent a lot of time to produce and populate a discrete website for the NP, which will come into its own once we go public.
Ellie Gingell attended an informal meeting with Anna, Bob Atkinson and myself to talk through everything described above. She is very helpful and has considerable relevant experience. Also she is an employee of SNC, so she will have a set of views which represent their thinking. I have no problem with this; ultimately it’s up to us, under Michael’s guidance, how we present our draft Plan. On the other hand, there is little point in presenting something that we know will be rejected. Working together and seeking convergence seems to me the best policy.
The Steering Group met with Michael on February 26th; Anna will circulate minutes in due course.
Finally, I hope I have conveyed the following:
- We have a committed, thoughtful and hard-working steering group.
- There are many complex issues to deal with.
- A lot has been achieved already.
- We have excellent professional support.
- We are committed to the task, to engaging the community, and to achieving the goal of making a successful Neighbourhood Plan.