Slough planning chief urges caution over Colnbrook Neighbourhood Plan

Slough Borough Council has told Colnbrook parish councillors that some “unpalatable choices” will have to be made as the new Local Plan for Slough develops – but has cautioned the Parish to be realistic in its aspirations for producing its own Neighbourhood Plan.

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Paul Stimpson, Planning Policy Lead Officer from Slough Borough Council attended the last full meeting of the Parish Council on Tuesday 1st March and gave councillors an update on preparations underway to develop the new Local Plan – as well as advice on how a possible Neighbourhood Plan for the parish might fit into that.

Some “unpalatable choices” will have to be made to accommodate a 50% expansion in the the number of homes in Slough over the next 20 years.

Mr Stimpson told those present at the meeting in Colnbrook Village Hall that the new housing need for Slough had been re-assessed as three times greater than before – now requiring 927 new houses a year, or half as much housing again over the next twenty years as currently exists across the entire borough.

That could mean the release of green field sites.

However in the short term progress will be slow until negotiations with South Bucks over a possible “garden suburb” get under way, and a decision is made on a third runway.  The Council, which does not want a Local Plan public inquiry to run alongside an inquiry for Heathrow, may seek a delay until 2020 to complete its Plan.  This would require Slough to claim “exceptional circumstances” preventing it from meeting the Government’s current 2017 deadline.

Cllr Hood suggested that working with Slough on the Local Plan might be an alternative to the Parish producing its own.  But questioned how a Neighbourhood Plan might fit with the new Local Plan Mr Stimpson appeared to dampen hopes.

He told councillors that a Neighbourhood Plan would be useful if the parish had house-building aspirations, but if it wanted to control other issues like traffic there may be a better ways to achieve those objectives.  Slough Council could offer help and advice on issues like traffic control and the Conservation Zone and that “probably about 80% of issues” could be resolved by the parish and borough councils working together without a Neighbourhood Plan.

It is not as simple as asking what residents want there have to be parameters.

Cllr Jackson said the parish would be criticised if it did not ask residents for their input; he suggested asking residents to come to meetings while Cllr Bryant suggested using the existing ‘drop-in’ sessions.  But here too Mr Stimpson urged caution: requests had to be realistic for the plan to be deliverable.

Stimpson has offered to meet with the Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan working group, which comprises Cllrs Grewal and Elum-Smith and Mike Nye, to discuss the way forward.

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