While it may seem quiet on the neighbourhood plan front, things have been far from quiet from both a national and local perspective. In Derbyshire for the first time ever a neighbourhood plan was voted down at its own referendum which is the last and final stage of the plan making process. Closer to home Horsham district Council have had a number of problems including the examiner at Storrington determining the plan was not suitable to go forward and more dramatically at Henfield a judge over ruling the examiners findings and saying that the Henfield plan, which was approved, should be quashed, also a first.
In light of all these events it is no surprise that Horsham are feeling a little sensitive around forthcoming neighbourhood plans and in a recent letter from Horsham’s head of planning Chris Lyons, neighbourhood plans are being offered more help in the process.
So, where are we with the current Slinfold Neighbourhood Plan ?
This time last year the public consultation event was very well attended and gave a clear steer to the working group for the shape of the emerging plan. By May of this year a first draft had been presented to the parish for comments and literally hundreds of comments were taken on board. In parallel Horsham could give the working group a clear steer on a number of issues (clearly influenced by their experiences elsewhere on some of these other more controversial plans).
The guidance from Horsham focused on two areas; employment space and local green spaces. On two of the sites which included conversion of some employment land to residential (Nowhurst and Bridgehouse Equestrian), HDC felt the loss of employment space inappropriate and in one case the landowner withdrew his support. The large area of local green space that we were intending to allocate in the central fields was considered to be too large by HDC in the light of recent interpretations of national planning policy.
And so in response to all of the consultation comments we are now at a stage of finalising the final draft. The major changes from the plan seen in May are the withdrawal of the Nowhurst and Bridgehouse sites from the plan and a revision of the central fields local green space to include the pub field and the new Village Green adjacent to the ‘End of West Way’ proposal.
We are now in the process of submitting all of our supporting evidence and Final plan to Horsham for them to undertake their own six week consultation before they can register the plan for examination. We know that examiners are being severely stretched at the moment and current waiting list's are between four and six months, consequently our current estimates are for examination sometime in the middle of 2017. We will keep you posted.
Chair Slinfold Neighbourhood Plan Working Group
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