UPDATE ON THE WATTON AT STONE NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN FEBRUARY 2019
As 2019 has come and we are starting a very significant year for the Neighbourhood Plan we felt it would be helpful if we published a note of the current position and what we are planning to do later in the year.
Firstly, we acknowledge that we have been rather quiet lately, however there has been quite a bit going on in the background which has prevented us from making progress. As you are probably aware one of the main factors affecting what we could do was getting the East Herts District Plan formally adopted by the Council. This was scheduled to happen in September but was then delayed by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. It was eventually formally adopted by the Council on the 28th October 2018.
Another factor that affected us was some changes that were being made to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The NPPF sets out the Government's intention to “provide local communities with the tools they need to energise their local economies, meet housing needs, plan for a low-carbon future and protect the environmental and cultural landscapes that they value.”
In Paragraph 136 of the latest NPPF it states:
” Where a need for changes to Green Belt boundaries has been established through strategic policies, detailed amendments to those boundaries may be made through non-strategic policies, including neighbourhood plans.”
This is really important for us as it means that EHDC can now choose to use the recommendations and policies that are published in properly adopted Neighbourhood Plans to influence their decisions on whether to approve developments.
The actual wording in the EHDC District Plan that sets out the bits that matter to us are as follows:
Firstly, Policy GBR1 Green Belt
I. Planning applications within the Green Belt, as defined on the Policies Map, will be
considered in line with the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework.
II. The villages of Hertford Heath, Stanstead Abbotts & St Margarets, and Watton-at-Stone
will be encouraged to consider whether it is appropriate through the formulation of a
Neighbourhood Plan to accommodate additional development especially where it
contributes to wider sustainability objectives and the delivery of community benefits.
And also this extract from EHDC Plan Policy VILL1
III. Within the Group 1 Villages of Hertford Heath, Stanstead Abbotts & St. Margarets,
and Watton-at-Stone, as defined on the Policies Map, development for housing,
employment, leisure, recreation and community facilities will be permitted subject to (VII)
below and all other relevant policies in this Plan. These villages will be encouraged to
consider whether it is appropriate, through the formulation of a Neighbourhood Plan, to
accommodate additional development especially where it contributes to wider
sustainability objectives and the delivery of community benefits.
This is complicated stuff but what it means is this:
The District Plan confirms that Watton at Stone must allow for at least 92 dwellings to be built over the next 15 years. Due to the lack of sufficient brownfield sites, some of these will need to be built on what is presently Green Belt land, however what land is released from the green belt will only be that which has been designated in the Neighbourhood Plan. And that will have to have been approved by the residents of the village by means of voting in a referendum. We are planning on holding the referendum later this year and how the process will work is explained on our website at http://www.was-np.org.
The important bit of GBR1 is where it states:
“whether it is appropriate through the formulation of a Neighbourhood Plan to accommodate additional development especially where it contributes to wider sustainability objectives and the delivery of community benefits.”
We are therefore going to be asking potential developers to work with us to identify what community benefits may be obtained if we were to recommend their sites to you. This is what we are working on now and will be reporting on the results of those meetings in our next round of consultation which will take place in the next few weeks.
To summarise then, we know that the village has to provide at least 92 new homes over the next 15 years. What land is used for these can be determined in a Neighbourhood Plan provided it is approved by the local community and accepted by East Herts District Council. If the plan does not identify sufficient land for 92 properties it will not be accepted as a valid document. Although we can identify some brownfield areas for housing development there isn’t enough on which to build all 92.
So to accommodate the rest then some Green Belt land must be released.
However, it also encourages our village to consider whether the release of green belt land could contribute towards the delivery of community benefits. We consider that that balancing exercise is essential if our parish has to lose open fields.”
When we started on the journey of producing our plan we conducted a number of surveys asking the villagers what benefits you would like to see in the village. The results of those surveys are on our web site. We are currently in discussion with potential developers to determine if their projects will deliver the benefits that the village identified as being the most important.
Once these discussions are completed we will hold another exhibition in the Community Hall outlining our findings in detail. This should be in the next few weeks.
So watch this space for the dates of the next exhibition.
Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group