The current Government thinks that local people (i.e. us) should be able to have a greater say than they currently do about shaping the way their area should evolve over the next 20 years. We understand that the intended aim of the new planning regime is to be more permissive to get more houses built. Planning applications will be presumed to be permitted unless there are reasons why it should not (e.g. because a Neighbourhood Plan says it is not permitted and why).
Thanks to the Localism Act 2011, the way in which the Government anticipates that areas such as ours may have its say is by way of a document called a Neighbourhood Plan. Whilst the Plan will be required to fit into the East Herts district planning strategy, the Plan is expected to describe the overall “vision” that our parish wants for our area now and over the next 20 years and will set out the detailed ways in which the parish aims to achieve that “vision”. The Plan will not deal only with planning issues, although these are likely to be the most important issue to many of us, it will also (if we choose to do so) allow our parish council to be given power to take over and run services and acquire assets for the benefit of the parish.
Our parish council wants to make the most of the opportunity provided by the Localism Act 2011 and to make sure our own local planning priorities/desires and other community requirements become part of the wider planning system for East Herts. If we do not take this opportunity we may find ourselves in the position of having an undesirable regime imposed upon us, so it is important we are part of the process now.
In short, we need to try to answer the following questions:
In November 2011, as part of the anticipated new planning regime, East Herts Council issued a guidance note designed to assist us produce our Plan. The guidance note recommends recruiting community volunteers to form a Steering Group, ideally 21 in total, (the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group or “NPSG”) to coordinate the preparation of the Plan, which your parish council has now done. The purpose of the Steering Group is to advise the parish council about certain functions provided in the Localism Act 2011 that fall within the power of a parish council to implement including: (i) delegated powers in respect of the provision of services to the parish area; (ii) planning and local property design limitation; and (iii) local asset purchase powers. The Neighbourhood Plan will set out how these new rights and powers will be used.
Your 15-strong Steering Group has had several meetings to understand what sort of document the Plan has to be, what formal steps we need to take to create it and how much it may cost to ensure that it can become a legal document and accepted as part of the Local Development Framework for East Herts.
As part of the Plan’s creation, the guidance note recommends that early and regular public meetings are held throughout the process so that the Steering Group can share its thoughts with the wider community and ask for feedback. As the Steering Group is developing a questionnaire, your responses to which will be used to create the “vision” for Brickendon Liberty and the foundations for the Plan, the Steering Group is ‘spreading the word’ about what has been happening so far on your behalf, and what will be happening over the coming months. The Steering Group is holding an open meeting for anyone to attend on Thursday 2 February 2012. This is intended to be the first of our open meetings and there will be further meetings throughout the year.
In short, it is your Plan and your vision for the future of Brickendon Liberty, not the Plan of the Parish Council or the Steering Group! Therefore, it is vital that you tell us how you think our parish should evolve and look over the next 20 years. We will need to think about issues such as the type, size, style and location of any development that may be allowed; what parts of the parish need to be improved (e.g. a footpath, the village pond, signage, potholes or recycling); whether the parish should acquire its own assets (e.g. rental accommodation for local workersworkers, allotments, sports facilities or an existing building for an, as yet, unknown purpose). The members of the Steering Group can’t foresee what your views might be unless you tell us what they are.
The Steering Group has to ensure that not only parish residents but also community groups, landowners, businesses, utilities, amongst others, (i.e. “stakeholders” - people who have an interest in the contents of the Plan) are included at all stages of the process. Any Plan that is created is unlikely to be properly representative of what the parish wants unless as many people as possible participate in its creation. Equally, if we do not share our ideas with each other it will be very difficult to produce a Plan that properly reflects the parish’s priorities and aspirations and which will, ultimately, be supported at a local referendum.
Firstly, the Parish Plan was prepared in 2006/7 and is now some 5/6 years old. There has been some change in the residents in the parish, creation/loss of businesses, new groups and activities started and also a downturn in the economy during that time. People’s views in 2006 may be different to those they hold now. This means we have to seek everyone’s views again.
The Parish Plan covered a wide range of issues. The Neighbourhood Plan, by contrast, will not be quite so wide-ranging and, as set out above, is intended to cover development planning, design and environmental issues, operation of services and acquisition of community assets. The Plan won’t, therefore, deal with anti-social issues, for example.
In addition, the Neighbourhood Plan will carry legal force so there are various steps we have to take so we comply with all the necessary requirements. This will mean that the Plan cannot be ignored when decisions are made that affect Brickendon Liberty. It will also remain in force (unless subsequently amended by us) for a long period of time, securing the position for future residents of the parish.
In brief, from the responses to a parish-wide questionnaire the Steering Group will form a “vision” statement and a set of objectives and actions that will enable the “vision” to be achieved. Thereafter, the Steering Group will need to:
During the creation of the Plan the Steering Group will have to review any new council planning documents that are due to be produced this year, in response to the Localism Act 2011, and make sure that our Plan complies with the overall planning regime for East Herts. We will not be allowed to seek adoption of a Plan that is in conflict with the intended overall planning regime – it will simply be rejected. An on-going review, therefore, will be undertaken. The Steering Group does not yet know what the planning regime will look like as East Herts Council has not yet drafted it, but we think it will be, in principle, similar to the regime we have at the moment, subject to the comments that we make in the first section of this note.
Obviously, until East Herts Council has finalised its new planning documents, we can’t finalise/submit our Plan. However, we can take as many preparatory steps as possible so we are ready to do so. It may be some months until we are able to deliver a questionnaire to everyone and it will take some time to process the results and draft our “vision” and Plan. We think it will certainly take up the larger part of this year to complete.
If you are interested in the work that the Steering Group will do over the coming months, please do not hesitate to join us at our regular meetings. It is important that we have as wide a group as possible, of all ages and backgrounds.
We will be adding further information to this web page as we progress.
Please come along to the public meetings that will take place during the year.
Speak to your representative for more information or provide us with feedback.
We had a great turnout for our first public meeting on 2 February 2012, despite the cold weather!