The team started off by carrying out a Neighbourhood Development Survey in the latter part of 2014. We had a very good response rate from households, and also heard from children and businesses in the Parish. All the replies were anonymously analysed by our Consultant, and the results gave us a very clear indication of the priorities and concerns of those who live or work in the Parish.
These were reflected in the policies we drafted, which everyone had a chance to see and discuss at the ‘Drop-In’ meeting on 19thJanuary 2015, attended by over 40 people; the draft policies were also available online and at The Junction, so we got additional feedback from people who couldn’t be at the meeting. In the light of everyone’s comments, and after a detailed discussion with the Parish Council, we finalised the policies, and the Council formally adopted them.
With the Parish Council’s approval, we were able to go ahead immediately to implement some of the points:
One of the limitations of a Neighbourhood Development Plan is that it can only influence matters that come strictly within the realm of Planning. We received lots of very useful ideas and suggestions on non-Planning matters, so we have gathered all of these together into a list of ‘Community Concerns’, which we have passed to the Parish Council for them to prioritise within an action plan – they will need everyone’s help to implement the plan!
At the request of the South Downs National Park Authority we also prepared a supplementary report called a ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’ (or SEA). They felt this was needed because of our recommendation to build up to 30 houses on the Travis Perkins site (which is expected to come on the market during the lifetime of the NDP). We’ve taken advice from SNDPA and all the other relevant organisations about what should go into this, and we are confident we have covered all their concerns.
We then carried out what is called ‘Pre-Submission Consultation’. That means that ithe latest draft of the NDP, together with the SEA and all the other supporting evidence we have gathered, was sent to all the organisations that need to be consulted (including all the village societies and the adjacent Parishes) and – most important of all – you, the residents and local businesses. We also held an open meeting where people could come and tell us their views. We received lots of thoughtful and constructive input from a wide variety of sources.
We took account of all this feedback in preparing the 'Submission version' of the Plan. This went to the independent external Examiner, who responded with his suggested changes. He was extremely complimentary about the Plan:
"The Parish Council are to be congratulated in taking such a positive and proactive approach to planning for development within its boundaries. It has grasped the opportunities to promote new housing and employment through the neighbourhood planning process whilst respecting the need to protect the special qualities of this village and its beautiful setting in the South Downs. The Working Group who have produced the Plan are to be congratulated for the hard work that has clearly gone into the Plan which has been delivered in a relatively short period."
We discussed his suggested changes with South Downs, and created an amended version. This version was approved by South Downs Planning Committee on 21st January.
This final version then went to a Referendum of all electors in the Parish, on 24th March 2016. 125 of the 233 people on the Electoral Roll turned out to vote - that's 52.5%, which is the highest turnout seen to date by the Arun team who were running the Referendum. Of these, 118 (94.4%) voted in favour of the Plan, and just 7 (5.6%) against. Following this, the Plan was formally 'made' by South Downs at their planning meeting on 12th May. The Plan is therefore now adopted, and will guide South Downs in their response to all future Planning Applications in the Parish.
Our next task is to supplement the Plan with a 'Village Design Statement', on which we shall be asking for your input - watch this space! We are also looking into the possibility of setting up a Community Land Trust to ensure that the affordable housing, downsizing units etc in the proposed new development remain affordable and for the use of local residents.