If ever there were a process in which the goal posts keep changing, then neighbourhood planning would be it. I referred in last month’s update to some local factors that could impact upon the neighbourhood plan. In addition to Local Government we now have National Government raising potential issues for us.
At Local Government level, Poole Planning Authority has been undertaking a major review of its Local Plan. A key element under discussion was the increase in housing need from 500 new homes per year to over 700. Inevitably some of these will be located in Broadstone, though space for new houses is very limited. Fortunately, our own Housing Needs Assessment is sufficiently up to date to have taken this issue into consideration. As a result, our housing policies also reflect the change while emphasising the need for good and sustainable design. We have also managed to anticipate potential policy changes, especially with regard to the development and location of new flats.
At national level a new Government White Paper has supposedly strengthened the Neighbourhood Planning process and the significance of neighbourhood plans. The Government has removed the expectation that each local planning authority (LPA) should produce a single Local Plan, with the emphasis now placed on more detail being contained in neighbourhood plans. In effect, this means a neighbourhood plan, once approved, will form part of a council’s Local Plan rather than simply being an add-on. Such a move is welcomed.
Proposed changes to the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework highlight the opportunities neighbourhood plans present for identifying and allocating small sites that are suitable for housing, drawing on the knowledge of local communities. The executive discussed this possibility at its last meeting and agreed that, because of the lack of suitable development space, we would not attempt to identify any sites, but rather strengthen the protection of amenity space, wildlife corridors, good design and the preservation of a locality’s essential character. However, we recognise that two sites already have planning permission: The Goods Yard car park (31 flats) and Dunyeats Road (36 sheltered apartments). Work has now started on the latter with completion scheduled for mid-2018.
So, are we simply going around in circles, or are we actually making progress towards the final goal – approval of Broadstone’s Neighbourhood Plan? While it often feels like we are not making any progress it is fair to say that the final milestones are now well in sight. At the time of writing we are about to submit the plan to an independent consultant for a health check and Basic conditions test. If this goes well the plan can then be presented to the Borough of Poole for the Regulation 15 consultation, after which it passes to an independent examiner and finally to referendum. We are hoping this will be a smooth passage and completed before the end of the year. In the meantime, we are organising the Annual General Meeting scheduled for March 30th. This will provide an opportunity for those attending to see the changes made since the Regulation 14 consultation last year.
Chair, Broadstone Neighbourhood Forum.