by Ed Dade
Posted on Oct. 12, 2019
This post explores Neighbourhood Plans which successfully passed referendum in September 2019, highlighting elements which make each plan locally specific and unique.
The following Neighbourhood Plans passed referendum in September 2019:
Whilst no two Neighbourhood Plans (hereafter 'NP's) are exactly alike, many share similar characteristics and address common themes. For example, almost all of September's plans use Local Green Space designation to protect open spaces of importance to the community.
Most of September's plans apply to rural parishes and villages. However, September saw the market towns of Bawtry and Huntingdon gain Neighbourhood Plans.
The Bawtry NP aims to improve the town centre's 'public realm' i.e. the built environment in publicly accessible areas, such as streets and town centres. Specifically, the 'Market Hill' area is flagged for improvement.
The detailed design policy sets requirements for development in the town centre. Development proposals must enhance the character and appearance of the historic town centre, and should minimise clutter from street furniture, lighting and litter bins, etc. The shopfronts policy will ensure shopping streets remain attractive, whilst providing security.
A site is allocated for redevelopment to provide a mix of uses suited to a town centre location, and includes an element of housing development.
The plan includes numerous measures to reduce traffic in the town centre, accompanied by a list of actions for the town council to deliver.
Huntingdon's Neighbourhood Plan promotes the town as a place of great potential for business investment, aiming to boost opportunities for employment in the town. The plan's first policy encourages employment development and regeneration. Retail development, tourism and leisure development are also favoured, particularly where this contributes to the town's night-time economy.
Similarly to the Bawtry plan, the Huntingdon NP requires development proposals to provide high quality streets, pavements and other publicly accessible areas. Some particular problem areas requiring investment are identified.
A diverse range of community assets and facilities are identified for special protection - from community centres, neighbourhood shops and sports facilities, to the library, museum and cinema.
The Tarvin NP has a clear focus on improving facilities for the wider community, and identifies a number of community projects. The plan allocates a 'leisure site' to provide new recreational facilities, identifies new footpath and cycle routes, proposes a project to extend community woodland, allocates a site to provide off-street parking, and safeguards a site for development of additional health care facilities. The plan includes a commitment to spend money raised from new development (i.e. CIL funds) to fund the projects identified in the plan.
Likewise, each policy in the West Bergholt NP is accompanied by a list of 'community ambitions' - community projects to be delivered by the parish council, or other organisations. The community ambitions likely outnumber the planning policies; the West Bergholt NP therefore goes beyond a mere planning document, providing a comprehensive plan for the community.
The Moreton, Bobbingworth and the Lavers NP requires affordable housing to be of a type and tenure that reflects the latest available local affordable housing needs survey. In Sedgeford, Norfolk, a housing association carried out a local housing needs survey and identified a need for 5 additional affordable homes. The Sedgeford NP seeks to deliver this requirement through a policy for rural exception sites for affordable housing.
Similarly, the Sid Valley NP encourages the development of rural exception sites, which allow affordable homes to be built in countryside locations, on sites which would otherwise be unsuitable for the development of open market homes, let to households with a connection to the local area. The plan also sets out the amount of affordable housing which developers are required to provide on large housing sites, and stipulates a 'tenure split' - the proportion of the affordable homes which should be let as social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership.
Smaller sites of 6 - 9 homes will also contribute to the delivery of affordable housing by making a financial contribution.
The Congresbury Neighbourhood Plan sets an affordable housing requirement of 30% on large sites. It is not common to see such a requirement in a Neighbourhood Plan, as typically such requirements are set through strategic policies of the Local Plans.
The Weobley Neighbourhood Plan prioritises the allocation of affordable housing to households with a local connection to the parish.
The Thurston NP encourages development proposals which meet differing housing needs such as first time buyers, housing for older people, and specialist care accommodation.
To ensure new homes meet the needs of local people, the Sid Valley NP specifies the mix of houses sizes which development proposals should provide (i.e. the percentage of 1-bed, 2-bed, 3-bed and 4-bed homes).
The Sedgefield NP requires at least 10% of new housing to be 'older people's housing', providing level access flats, bungalows and sheltered accommodation and extra care schemes.
The Glentworth NP encourages proposals for housing to be accessible and adaptable, meeting the higher access standards in accordance with Building Regulations Part M4(2).
Due to its proximity to the coast, the Sedgeford NP includes a policy to prevent the development of new homes as 'second homes'. All new development must be the principal residence of the occupants.
The Brackenfield Neighbourhood Plan includes a chapter devoted to Health and Wellbeing - an issue I believe should be at the heart of all Neighbourhood Plans. The plan recognises the broad ways planning issues affect health and wellbeing, and seeks to protect and enhance community facilities, improve road safety, and support and protect footpaths and bridleways.
The following plans make site allocations for housing development: Congresbury NP, Hullavington NP, Misterton NP, Sedgeford NP, Weobley NP, West Bergholt NP, and Withington NP.
Notably, the Hullavington NP makes a site allocation for 70 homes, the West Bergholt NP includes two sites to deliver a minimum of 120 new homes, and Hanslope NP makes three site allocations for approximately 157 homes.
The Congresbury NP makes five site allocations, of which, one site is exclusively for the development of affordable homes for local people. The Withington NP allocates a site for an 'age-restricted' development to meet the needs of older people.
Sedgeford gained agreement from Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council to make site allocations through the Neighbourhood Plan, rather than the Local Plan process.
September's plans are generally favourable toward employment development. The Misterton NP takes an especially flexible approach to development at an existing business park, encouraging a wide range of uses, including retail, food establishments, leisure and some residential accommodation, and particularly favours proposals which support tourism.
Protecting landscapes and important views are common themes for Neighbourhood Plans. However, September's plans saw some plans approach this issue in innovative ways.
The Misterton NP's Steering Group gathered evidence and carried out their own assessment of the parish's character. Based on this research, the plan divides the built areas of the parish into seven distinct character areas, requiring development proposals to respond to local character, for example by using vernacular styles and materials.
The Withington Group NP provides protection of views and vistas of the landscape. The location of important views are clearly indicated on map. Photos are used effectively along with supplementary information and maps, in order to protect views to landmarks up to 20km away.
The Sedgeford NP identifies a specific area within the parish for protection due to its potential archaeological significance.
The Glentworth NP identifies and grants protection to non-designated heritage assets, for example buildings which are of local importance but are not 'listed buildings'. The Sedgfield NP resists proposals for development of garden-land in the Conservation Area, unless it can be shown the development will not lead to adverse impacts on the area's historic character.
The Congresbury NP seeks to enhance its Conservation Area by restricting the use of 'modern shiny finishes' such as acrylic and applied vinyl, favouring traditional materials. Traditional, painted signage is encouraged, and illuminated signs are restricted. The plan includes a commitment for the parish council to prepare a Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan - a document separate form the Neighbourhood Plan, which provides analysis of the features of the conservation area, and measures for its protection for the future.
The Brackenfield NP encourages development proposals to deliver a 'net gain' in biodiversity. Existing woodlands, trees and hedgerows should be retained, and if lost replaced with native species. Similarly, the Tarvin NP seeks to ensure there is 'no net loss. in biodiversity.
All development proposals in the Thurston NP's area must include measures to support wildlife,such as bird and bat boxes, and planting to support certain species.
The Bawtry NP requires new development to protect and enhance Green Infrastructure, improve linkages between corridors to enable the movement and spread of flora and fauna. Development proposals in the Congresbury NP area must demonstrate how they will maintain and enhance the connectivity of green corridors and not result in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats.
In addition, the impacts of light pollution should be limited and landscaping should use native species and incorporate existing hedgerows, wetland areas and other wildlife features. Buffer zones are to be provided around existing habitats, including sites of special scientific interest, local nature reserves and local wildlife sites.
The North Crawley Neighbourhood Plan, located in Milton Keynes Council area, was rejected by voters at referendum.