A Neighbourhood Plan for Botley; guest post

Guest post by Mr Tony Wood.

A Parish Council meeting on 27 Mar will discuss again the Neighbourhood Plan. It’s open to the public, and starts at 8pm at Seacourt Hall.

Legislation requires local planning authorities (in our case, the Vale) to pass on 25% of all Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments collected as a result of development in the area back to the community, provided there is a Neighbourhood Plan in place. It’s likely that most developments will be required to make CIL contributions. This could be significant if we have some large developments in the area.

If we don’t have a Neighbourhood Plan, then the maximum we can earn is 15% of CIL money collected. The planning authority can cap that payment based on a formula that they control. Money not given back to the community is retained by the Vale for them to spend on facilities anywhere in the Vale. In truth, it’s unlikely we would get 15% of CIL. The community could lose the right to spend considerable sums of money on local community facilities.

If you saw the Oxford Mail report about neighbourhood planning, you heard that Thame calculated that their Neighbourhood Plan could be worth £3m over the next 15 years. Whilst we are smaller than Thame, if we have a Neighbourhood Plan in place, we will certainly earn considerably more than we have done under the old section 106 process.

If we implement a Neighbourhood Plan, then we can change the profile of developers who work in the parish. Speculative developers want areas with limited planning policy; it’s easier to propose an outrageous development and get away with it. All they need is one success out of several attempts to make a profit. The policies in the other documents that make up the local development framework are more strategic and general. Neighbourhood planning is much more specific whilst being complementary to the other documents. In neighbourhood plan areas, developers typically pursue lower risk strategies. In neighbourhood plan areas, there is extra planning certainty and clarity and it makes it easier to design development projects that will be supported by the community. It is lower planning risk, but everyone understands the possibilities and value of sites. It can be that the developer makes less money. But their motivation is that they increase their chances of steady work and ensure that they and their employees are employed into the future. Drayton saw this happen even before their plan was fully adopted. Given that renewal development is fundamental to a healthy vibrant community, I for one prefer the later type of developer!

The Government is very keen for us to write a plan. There are the grants available that should cover most if not all the costs involved in producing it. The right to produce a Neighbourhood Plan is guaranteed, and the resulting document has real legal weight. If we have any pretension to have any influence on future planning decision making we have to have a Neighbourhood Plan. The Vale have a team dedicated to supporting our needs. However, we are still in a period of austerity and the funding is only guaranteed until this time next year. Government has application deadlines every quarter and the Vale needs 3 months to complete their preparation work in advance of applying for funding. The next deadline for us is the end of the month – maybe the first week of next. So this is urgent.

So what to do? All that is required to get started is a standard letter (that has already been written) and a map with our parish boundary marked on it to be sent to the Vale planning department. The trouble is, we need the Parish Council to write the letter. Those that came to the Parish AGM will have heard some councillors and the parish clerk opposing the idea of a plan. One gentleman stood up and tabled a motion from the floor which was overwhelmingly supported by the other members of the public. Unfortunately the Parish Chairman and clerk continued to show resistance. However, some of the other councillors are changing their view and are beginning to side with Cllr Sellers and Cllr MacKeith who have supported this from the start. So if we can keep up the pressure and continue to ask the council to write the Neighbourhood Plan designation letter than we will eventually get there.

You can write or e-mail the parish clerk and councillors directly.

If you please copy the Botley Neighbourhood plan steering group  botleyneighbourhoodplan@yahoo.co.uk, we can keep you informed about what happens.

Parish councillor contact details: http://www.northhinksey-pc.gov.uk/Core/North-Hinksey-PC/Pages/Contact_UsCouncillors_2.aspx

Fingers crossed common sense prevails!