What is Neighbourhood Planning about?
Instead of local people being told what to do, the Government thinks that local communities should have genuine opportunities to influence the future of the places where they live. The Localism Act introduces a new right for communities to draw up a neighbourhood plan.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a way of helping local communities to influence the the planning the of the area in which we live and work. It can be used to:
- Develop a shared vision for our neighbourhood.
- Choose where new homes, shops, offices and development should be built.
- Identify and protect important local green spaces.
- Influence what new buildings should look like.
These plans can be very simple and concise, or go into considerable detail. Provided a neighbourhood development plan is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority in our case Test Valley Borough Council, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. If the plan is approved by a majority of those who vote, then TVBC will bring it into force.
TVBC will be required to provide technical advice and support as we draw up our proposals for the neighbourhood plan.
Typical things that a Neighbourhood Plan might include.
- The development of housing, including affordable housing (affordable housing is housing that is not normally for sale on the pen market), and bringing vacant or derelict housing back into use.
- Provision for businesses to set up or expand their premises.
- Transport and access (including issues around roads, cycling, walking and access for disabled people).
- The development of schools, places of worship, health facilities, leisure and entertainment facilities, community and youth centres and village halls.
- The restriction of certain types of development and change of use, for example to avoid too much of one type of use.
- The design of buildings.
- Protection and creation of open space, nature reserves, allotments, sports pitches, play areas, parks and gardens, and the planting of trees.
- Protection of important buildings and historic assets such as archeological remains.
- Promotion of renewable energy projects, such as solar or hydro energy and wind farms.
Preparing a plan will take a lot of time and effort. How much time it will take will vary depending on the issues we want to cover. We will need to involve other people who may not agree with our views. It will require the whole community to reach a broad consensus on the objectives, key issues and desired outcomes. It should be a positive force for change and will give us all more control over what happens in Romsey.
Why should we produce our own Neighbourhood Plan?
There used to be some significant flaws in the planning system that the current Government inherited. Planning did not give members of the public enough influence over decisions that made a big difference to their lives. Too often, power was exercised by people who were not directly affected by the decisions they were taking. This meant, understandably, that people often resented what they saw as decisions and plans being foisted on them.
Test Valley Borough Council's Revised Local Plan is one such plan that Romsey feels is being foisted on them. Despite continual public consultation that clearly is rejecting RLP, Test Valley Borough Council is pushing ahead with it's aims.
The Romsey Neighbourhood Plan Management Group believe it is better for the town to decide it's own future, and the 2011 Localism Act enables us to do just that. The Localism Act set out a series of measures with the potential to achieve a substantial and lasting shift in power away from central government and towards local people. They include:
- new freedoms and flexibilities for local government;
- new rights and powers for communities and individuals;
- reform to make the planning system more democratic and more effective and
- reform to ensure that decisions about housing are taken locally.