Community led Planning

I attended a training session last week at BDC on the above subject.  The purpose of the session was to brief the attendees on the new drive towards community involvement in future planning process.  The majority of attendees were from Parish Councils although the invitation was open to all.  I went along to see how a community group like SNUB could become involved.  The attendees were from the following:

  • Acle PC
  • Aylsham Neighbourhood Plan Working Group
  • Aylsham Town Council
  • Blofield PC
  • BDC (Councillors)
  • Broads Authority
  • Brundall PC
  • Buxton with Lamas PC
  • Hainford PC
  • Hevingham PC
  • Lingwood and Burlingham PC
  • Norfolk Association of Local Councils
  • Ringland PC
  • Salhouse PC
  • Spixworth PC
  • Sprowston PC
  • Western Longville PC
  • Wherry Housing Association

The Community Development and Engagement Team who include Susan Flack, Rachel Leggett and Richard Squires gave the presentations with Peter Smith of Norfolk Rural Community Council also making a presentation.  Their remit is to help communities and community groups become involved in community planning!  It doesn’t seem that this remit extends to community groups like SNUB.

The main focus of the session was to focus on the compilation of Parish Plans (community issues) and Neighbourhood Plans (housing).  It was clear that some PC’s had not completed a Parish Plan and others, like Salhouse, were in the vanguard of the Neighbourhood Plans and working on the national pilot.  Not sure where or how they got the mandate from the electorate to take part in this pilot as all of the Parish Councillors were returned unopposed in May this year so no one had to stand on the hustings and explain what the policy for Salhouse is or going to be in the future.

Anyway the main gist of the Neighbourhood Plans is the setting up of a Neighbourhood Development Order that the PC will be able to approve.  Once accepted then there is no need for planning permission as the order will state where and what can be built within the settlement limit of the Parish.  This is the empowerment that the Localism Bill will give to Parish Councils.  The process goes like this:

  1. Agree vision and objectives for the Neighbourhood Plan.
  2. Develop policies and plans including Land Use Policies and Specific Site Allocations.
  3. Independent and “light touch” examination by BDC appointed auditors.
  4. Referendum where 50% of those who turnout to vote must agree.  So if only 100 people bother to vote then the PC will 51 to agree.

So the answer is to mobilise residents and get them to turnout and express their wishes through the referendum.  I asked the question on what happens if the residents vote against the plan.  Surprisingly there was no real answer, as I do not think this has been thought through thoroughly.

Interestingly as part of the process the attendees had to look at photographs of Broadland and say which pictures most sum up Broadland and why?  These were some of the answers:

·        Lots of open spaces and footpaths.
·        Open countryside.
·        Quiet and peaceful surroundings.
·        Rural tranquillity.
·        Quiet roads.
·        Lovely countryside.

Another exercise was to pin flags on a map of Broadland to identify what you would like to see.  There were a large number of flags in the North East growth triangle identifying the area as having the above attributes!  Remember this is the area whereby BDC are proposing to build 10,000 houses. 

It will be interesting to see how BDC report this session, which was the last of four.   It is however quite clear once again that even elected officials from PC’s value the area that is going to be built on!  Why aren’t BDC listening?

Stephen Heard
Stop Norwich Urbanisation

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