The Localism Bill
The new Bill which is going through Parliament at present is designed to provide new freedoms and flexibilities for local government, new rights and powers for local communities, decentralised control and local influence and reforms to the planning system.
It also aims to provide public services that respond to local priorities, that cut through red tape, and allow communities to take over and run amenities and services they value, and options to provide them in a variety of ways.
It is important that there is good local leadership to identify the priorities in our area and then to get people involved in the discussion on how we, together, can tackle the priorities which if successful will result in the passing of more power and money to the local Area Board to achieve these objectives.
Neighbourhood Development Planning
One of the basic principles of planning at the neighbourhood level is to give communities more ability to determine the shape of the places in which they live.
Neighbourhood Plans will be the new planning tool sitting alongside the Wiltshire's Core Strategy which reflects national planning policy – it will be the vehicle that allows communities to shape and influence new development in their area.
Neighbourhoods will be based on parish footprints and more than one parish can come together to construct a Neighbourhood Plan, for example Malmesbury and St Paul Without.
The Neighbourhood Plan process should run something like this; WC agrees to the proposed area that the NP will cover and then has a duty to provide support for its construction, NP written locally following wide consultation and input from the community, WC assesses that the NP has broad conformity to the Core Strategy after a 50%+ support referendum from local people, arranges a light touch assessment by an independent assessor, and finally adopts it as an integral part of the Core Strategy.
Wiltshire Core Strategy
Wiltshire Council has a duty to prepare a Core Strategy (Local Plan) which must set out how, where and when new development should take place within Wiltshire; this is a national requirement. It is important to ensure the needs of the economy, environment and communities are properly balanced within the plan.
The Core Strategy is a county-wide strategic level plan and provides a framework within which Neighbour hood Plans can be developed and might include the identification of sites for small scale development, the need for local community infrastructure, and to address local issues – future of town centre, design of new housing.
A Core Strategy was developed in 2009/10 under the soon to be abolished Regional Spacial Strategy (last Government's policy), this is being reworked free from the prescriptive direction of the RSS and it will go out to public consultation in June 2011 with an opportunity for further comment in late 2011, followed by its submission to a Government Inspector for examination in public and a final binding report early in 2012.
This proved a very useful and productive session with a number of potential growth scenarios discussed within breakout groups which then fed back to the Wiltshire Council team.
The scenarios considered ranged from 100 to 800 extra dwellings in the Malmesbury Community Area (big area, roughly Ashton Keynes – Great Somerford – Corston - Malmesbury) up to 2026; there appeared to be consensus on these, and many other points:
- There needs to be a pause in development in Malmesbury and its immediate environs to allow an assessment of infrastructure needs to be assessed and, where shortfalls exist, provided
- Future employment opportunities need to be considered particularly if the long-term future of Dyson in the town is not absolutely assured.
- The accommodation for publicised increases in the Dyson workforce will not be required in the town as likely recruits want to live in more socially active towns/cities which will impact upon the housing need figures.
Information supplied by Malmesbury & St. Paul's Without Residents' Association