Residents in Knaphill are feeling pretty abused when it comes to planning decisions. We’ve all felt Woking Borough Council’s approach is skewed at times, never seeming to reflect popular opinion or taking cognisance of what the locals are saying. So is it time to gain a larger influence over our village development by creating a Neighbourhood Plan?
What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
It’s a method of a local area to have more control over the ‘what and how’ is developed. It must be established and developed by a local town or parish council or a neighbourhood forum and must not contravene certain regulations or the Local Plan / strategy already created [by in this case Woking Borough Council]. For example, the community can have more of a say in choosing where you want new homes, shops and offices to be built; have your say on what new buildings should look like and help grant planning permission for the new buildings you want to see go ahead.
Who’s doing it?
Locally, Chobham (Surrey Heath) have submitted plans for their own Neighbourhood Plan and if you do a simple online search for ‘Neighbourhood Plan‘ then you get a whole raft of plans in various stages of development. This shows that communities throughout the country are taking this opportunity very seriously and having their say in the control of the area they live in.
Is it supported by regulations?
Absolutely. It was given the rubber stamp in the 2011 Localism Act and now has its own regulations – The Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012 – so this is a serious commitment from the government to give power to the community, something local councils are fairly bad at doing.
I want more information
Well there’s a raft of it out there! This is supported by government and local councils so expect a few hoops to jump through. These are a bureaucratic necessity and add to what is not the easy option for any community group considering the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan. I’ve provided some links below that I think are useful. There’s a couple of guides for both ward councillors and general information; I’ve also included WBC’s own page on neighbourhood planning as well as an independent information site complete with a forum area to discuss the issues at hand.
Make no mistake this would be a tough road ahead but the rewards can be great – imagine not having to go through the pains of Brookwood Farm again where all opinion is washed aside, of having plans submitted where you can actually have an proper say in the process!
- Woking Borough Council page on Neighbourhood Planning
- How to shape where you live: A guide to Neighbourhood Planning (Campaign to protect rural England) and CPRE webite
- Neighbourhood Planning Guide For Ward Councillors (Planning Advisory Service)
- Forum for Neighbourhood Planning
- Example of Neighbourhood Planning in action – the Bookham Vanguard
- ‘Locality’ website – communities for ambitious change
- ‘Planning portal’ from the government
- My Community Rights web page
How is it funded?
The local community will have to pay for the preparation of their neighbourhood plan. However, the Government has awarded funding to four organisations with expertise in planning, to assist communities in developing Neighbourhood Plans. These organisations are:
The Prince’s Foundation – assistance with community engagement and finding local solutions to issues. www.princes-foundation.org
Locality – provision of support and networking to community groups through online resources and other networking tools, practical workshops and seminars, and tailored advice through a telephone advice line. www.locality.org.uk
The Royal Town Planning Institute – via the Planning Aid service, the provision of free, independent, impartial, professional planning advice to people who do not have the means to pay professional fees. Provision of support and training to local communities to influence and contribute to planning strategy, policy and decision-making at all levels.
The National Association of Local Councils in partnership with the Campaign to Protect Rural England – provision of basic information about the planning system via a website, phone line and publications. Establishing a programme of local events to inform the public and parish councils about how to influence local plans.
Big question time – Who would do it for Knaphill?
Well there’s the rub. This will take a group of like minded people to come together and represent the interests of the whole village diligently and with constant engagement and communication and don;t forget there would have to be a referendum for Knaphill to adopt this approach.
Personally I do not see the Knaphill Residents Association (KRA) as being the body to accomplish the job although there should certainly be representation made. So who else would like to do the job?
Here’s the question for you – are you interested?