The first Parish Council meeting of the New Year will take place on Tuesday and councillors will debate dropping the proposed Neighbourhood Plan.
Under the Localism Act 2011, Parish Councils can use new powers to establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood. These are described legally as ‘neighbourhood development plans.’ In a major change to the planning system communities can grant Neighbourhood Development Orders without the need for planning applications. More importantly, they have a right to be considered when planning applications are considered.
The Parish Council took guidance on the new law last year and initially appeared keen to produce one.
In November Cllr Hood reported to the council that the requirement to be consistent with the Local Plan for Slough would provide limited room for manoeuvre for a Neighbourhood Plan. The legislation stipulates that local plans must have regard to national planning policy, general conformity with the core strategy for the local area, and be compatible with EU obligations and human rights requirements.
“The Chairman felt that to do all the considerable work and necessary expense involved, a referendum etc. then to find it was a waste of money and expense was something he felt unable to recommend.”
While the costs appear to have put councillors off estimates range from just £15,000 to £50,000 including the Referendum and Examination which are funded by the district council, in this case Slough.
In the Royal Borough Council a number of Neighbourhood Plans are well under way. Windsor & Maidenhead are acting as “a vanguard authority” on the project, helping communities and successfully securing grants from central government towards the costs of Plans for neighbouring Datchet, Horton & Wraysbury and Old Windsor among others. Some of the plans have been very well supported by residents. 7 applications for Neighbourhood Plan Area Designation have been submitted and look set to be approved by the end of January 2013.
In the absence of a Parish Council sponsorship for a Neighbourhood Development Plan the Act allows for “neighbourhood forums” to be designated, allowing residents’ organisations, voluntary and community groups to put themselves forward. A local referendum is required to rubber stamp the plan produced.
Also on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting is a request to increase the fees paid to parishcouncil.net for hosting the Parish website. An increase to £300 a year has been requested to ‘unlock’ access to new features not available in the template with the current subscription such a blogs, discussion forums and even an online booking system for village halls.
The meeting will take place at the Village Hall on Tuesday 8th January 2013, commencing at 7.30pm.