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Tywardreath and Par Parish Council (between Fowey and St Austell in Cornwall) set up a neighbourhood development plan (NDP) steering group. It has created a plan which protects open spaces (land and water) in the parish, setting an example to other communities. Alison White, the group’s secretary and a member of the society, provides tips on how this was done.
Everyone in the NDP group must be open-minded and willing to listen, because the NDP is about what development the community wants. In our case, the community wanted the NDP to protect green spaces and water bodies, while providing truly affordable housing for local people—a juggling act.
It is never too soon to start gathering and recording the evidence to put in the consultation statement. So a well-organised secretary is essential, as is a diplomatic and calm chair.
A quick survey at the start of the process is a good way to find out what is important for your community, and identify likely themes for the NDP.
You should hold community events to follow up and confirm the findings. Keep a record of events and outcomes. We ran a workshop of activities which gave us plenty of evidence for the NDP and led to a more detailed questionnaire. This allowed us to consolidate our ideas before drafting the NDP. We engaged a marketing agency with a successful track-record of working with NDP groups, and it proved money well spent.
It is important to wait until you have all the above information and results before drafting the NDP. Compile the summary of evidence as you go along. You will give yourself much more work if you do not do this simultaneously.
If your local-authority development officers offer help, accept it. Ours asked us to use a template which the council had formulated. This was useful, and can be found on the Cornwall Council website.
Someone else may have written the policy statements you are trying to formulate. The internet is your friend, you can copy somebody else’s wording. It is especially useful to find a recent NDP which has been ‘made’ or ‘adopted’ in your local-authority area.
Development officers are well versed in planning law, but there is more latitude with NDPs which are about the local context and what it is that makes your area special. If you can supply evidence-based rationale for a particular policy which your community wants, put it in and see what the inspector says. For instance, we have a ‘tranquil areas’ policy—a first for Cornwall.
The turn out for the referendum for our NDP was good: 21.6 per cent, with 90.6 per cent voting in favour and only 8.78 per cent against. Thus, our NDP now has equal weighting in statutory terms with the Cornwall Local Plan when it comes to making planning decisions.
An example of our objectives is found under environment and heritage: ‘providing green spaces for recreation and enjoyment, and maintaining and enhancing blue and green spaces and corridors, providing access to all wherever feasible and appropriate, so supporting blue green tourism and securing positive health and wellbeing outcomes for all’.
The NDP has enabled 16 areas in the parish to be designated as local green spaces, offering them increased protection from development.
The NDP is at https://bit.ly/3r5cFp0.