This last year has been something of a rollercoaster ride, with highs and lows. The year started well. Following the 2016 Annual General Meeting we frantically brought all the Neighbourhood Plan documentation up to date and uploaded to our website www.broadstoneneighbourhood.uk ready for the statutory Regulation 14 consultation. This was scheduled to commence on April 13th and last for 6 weeks, though we extended the deadline slightly to May 31st. The launch of the consultation was accompanied by several press releases, but unfortunately some of the headlines proved to be rather controversial and consequently caused something of a distraction. Several people responded to the headlines and images without any reference to the content of the plan.
We are grateful to Broadstone library for allowing us to display the plans for the whole of the consultation period, during which time Forum members spoke to over a hundred residents. Saturday mornings provided a further opportunity to talk to residents about the plan from our small stall outside Budgens. The level of interest was encouraging and the quality of responses on the completed questionnaires gave us food for thought.
Consultation is an integral part of the neighbourhood planning process. It demonstrates the extent to which residents and businesses are aware of, an involved with, it’s development. The Forum must be able to demonstrate that it has listened to, and responded to, the comments made. The evidence for this is presented in the Consultation Statement. This has the potential of creating a vast amount of work, so we had scheduled the period from June to the end of August for completing any amendments to the plan we felt were necessary. Unfortunately, this is where we experienced a major low point.
Regulation 14 requires us to consult with several statutory bodies. One of these failed to respond by the deadline. In fact, we did not receive a response until the end of September. Without this organisation’s response, it was difficult to move forward in a meaningful way. We had little option but to revise our schedule and cope as best we could with the impacts.
Over the last three months we have, in response to the consultation, been revising the draft plan, and what is on display represents the latest version. This has been forwarded to an independent consultant for a health check. Fortunately, this is a free service as part of the Government support grant we were awarded during 2016. Because the money we received has now been spent, and there is potentially more work to be done prior to submission to the Borough of Poole, we have applied for an additional grant for this coming financial year.
On the positive side, the Forum has been praised by both English Heritage, for its work on the character of Broadstone, and by the Environment Agency for including policies which help address the issues of surface runoff and flood risk in Broadstone. Furthermore, the support for the plan’s policies is extremely high, at around 90%, and is even higher for the principle of developing a masterplan once the plan itself has been “made”.
Once the plan has been submitted to the Borough of Poole it is virtually out of our hands for the remainder of the process. There is a further consultation period, Regulation 15, which is organised by the Borough of Poole, after which all the documents are forwarded to a Government Inspector for examination. If he/she is satisfied, then a referendum has to be held, and provided the yes vote gains over 50% the plan becomes a statutory planning document. It is hoped this can be achieved before the end of this year. We will continue to keep everyone informed of progress through our monthly updates in Broadstone Link.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank committee members for their support and unstinting effort over the last four years, and to thank everyone who has contributed to the plan in any way. Your help, criticisms, supportive comments and advice have been appreciated.
Chair, Broadstone Neighbourhood Forum.