Lydiard Millicent completed its draft neighbourhood plan back in September 2014. Nearly two years’ later, there’s at least one major development on the horizon. However, the village still lacks a neighbourhood plan, which could give it a greater say over the location and type of any future development.
Getting a neighbourhood plan adopted is not an easy matter. But why is Lydiard Millicent’s taking so long?
At the Parish Council’s next meeting on Thursday, 4th August, it will once again be considering Lydiard Millicent’s continued involvement with the New-V neighbourhood plan. There could even be a question mark over whether Lydiard will proceed with its neighbourhood plan.
Last week, we considered some of the benefits of having a neighbourhood plan. In this post, we look at the story of Lydiard Millicent’s neighbourhood plan so far, and why, seemingly, progress has ground to a halt.
Sadly, it’s a longer piece than I would have liked. I have greatly condensed events (honestly). However, I also thought it important, for those who are interested, to let the timeline speak for itself.
The government’s National Planning Guidance says that, where a Parish Council chooses to produce a neighbourhood plan, it should work with the whole community. Other towns and villages have seized the opportunity to make the neighbourhood planning process work for them. (Take a look at Malmesbury).
What’s stopping us?
The story so far
Wiltshire Council secure vanguard funding for six pilot neighbourhood plan projects.
The Area Board decide that one of these will comprise the Royal Wootton Bassett and Cricklade area and surrounding villages of Purton, Lydiard Millicent, Lydiard Tregoze, Lyneham and Bradenstoke, Tockenham, Broad Town and Clyffe Pypard. Wiltshire Council allocate £21,000 of the frontrunner project funding it has received from central government to the group.
Each parish would be responsible for preparing its own chapter of the overall plan. There would, however, be one plan, comprising chapters on all of the individual villages and an overarching strategy, which would then go through the statutory process of independent examination and referendum.
November 2011 to April 2012
The Localism Act, which formally introduces the neighbourhood planning framework, becomes law. It comes into full effect in April 2012.
June 2012 to November 2012
Wiltshire Council engage contractors to work with the neighbouring planning groups. The late John Bennett attends meetings on behalf of the parish plan subgroup. Workshops are held with Broad Town Parish Council and with neighbourhood planners.
In November 2012, Lydiard Millicent Parish Council vote to support what becomes known as the New-V Neighbourhood Planning Group (New V stands for North East Wiltshire Villages).
Wootton Bassett and Cricklade both decide not to proceed with the group, but to forge their own neighbourhood plans. Purton, as lead authority, applies for designation of the remaining parishes as the New-V neighbourhood planning area. This is a formal application required by the legislation. It’s the first formal stage of the neighbourhood planning process, and a statutory period of eight weeks’ consultation follows.
The grouping of, arguably disparate, villages was controversial from the start with allegations of cost-cutting.
One particular criticism was that, in any future referendum, the whole of the New-V area would be voting on proposals that affected other parishes. One could, legitimately, question what say a person living in Lyneham should have over development in Purton or Lydiard.
In the words of one consultee from Purton, Dr Richard Pagett, a “single referendum on the entire plan without the individual parish safeguards [would] be a travesty of democracy”. New-V was not seen as a cohesive grouping from the start, “but merely what is left over after nearly a year of dilly-dallying, and therefore intuitively… a poor and embarrassing basis for going forward.”
January – April 2013
More meetings take place. Lydiard Millicent has public drop-in sessions, sends out surveys and completes its Housing Needs Survey. Work continues on the draft neighbourhood plan.
Wiltshire Council formally designates the New-V neighbourhood planning area.
Lydiard Millicent Parish Council agree that the neighbourhood plan should only include reference to generic rather than specific sites. Further presentations are made in the village, which are well-attended. Public feedback is reflected in further revisions to the draft neighbourhood plan.
January – March 2014
Progress slows due to reconsidering the draft neighbourhood plan in light of Wiltshire’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment and lack of input from contractors (allegedly because of non-payment by Wiltshire Council).
The Parish Council Chairman, Andrew Harris, withdraws from the meeting, declaring himself to be an interested party on account of his potential development land.
The Parish Council receive an update on progress. The plan should be completed by May 2014 and submitted to Wiltshire by August 2014, the meeting is told. The Parish Council agree to spend £20 on the cost of printing a leaflet to publicise the draft plan around the village.
May – July 2014
Further meetings. The steering group considers specific sites for inclusion in the draft neighbourhood plan. However, instead, a set of criteria is developed for inclusion as part of the Plan. New developments and proposals would then be judged against these criteria.
In July, the Council is told that the project is nearing completion, but there are some issues with Lydiard Tregoze.
September – October 2014
The Lydiard Millicent chapter of the New-V draft neighbourhood plan is completed, and uploaded onto the website for four weeks’ consultation.
The Parish Council listen to plans for the next stage; the other parish chapters must be collated prior to submission to Wiltshire Council for review, consultation, independent review and referendum.
Common Places, the contractors engaged by Wiltshire Council for New-V, according to the Parish Council minutes, are disengaged for not completing the work expected of them. Wiltshire Council are now providing the necessary assistance to New-V directly.
January – December 2015
Regular updates are given at the monthly Parish Council meetings. Progress, apparently, is being made.
In December 2015, the Parish Council is given advance notice that they will be asked to confirm their approval of the draft Neighbourhood Plan at the January meeting. This is necessary before the plan can go to its six-week statutory public consultation, the next step to its being adopted.
At Lydiard Millicent Parish Council’s meeting on January 7th, the Chairman withdraws from the debate as an interested party.
Councillor Pepperell asks the Council to approve the resolutions put forward by the New-V Planning Group. These are to approve the area-wide objectives and policies and the draft Lydiard Millicent chapter of the neighbourhood plan (which is substantively the same as that uploaded by the Parish Council to its website for consultation in September 2014). The Council is also asked to authorise “minor changes to the draft chapters in the interests of clarity, accuracy and consistency before it is published.” Councillor Pepperell explains that these are not intended to be substantive, but would be administrative in nature.
Some councillors are not happy because they say they have not had enough time to read and consider the draft plan and accompanying papers.
The Parish Council resolves to defer the matter to a future meeting, and requests Councillor Pepperell to liaise with Wiltshire Council for clarification on the wording of the resolution, and for more information on when a decision is needed.
The Parish Council finally approve the draft neighbourhood plan.
However, in the meantime, Lyneham and Bradenstoke and Purton, have announced their decisions to withdraw from the New-V group.
Councillor Pepperell warns there may be issues with Lydiard Tregoze too. If Lydiard Tregoze withdraw, it will be hard for Lydiard Millicent to continue in New-V, as the parish will no longer form part of a contiguous area.
March – April 2016
A hiatus ensues as clarification is sought over Lydiard Tregoze’s intentions.
Lydiard Millicent Parish Council resolves not to object to Purton and Lyneham and Bradenstoke leaving the New-V group.
New-V Steering group meeting, held in the Jubilee Club House, on 12 May, clashes with the Parish Council meeting being held less than a mile away, in the Parish Hall. Deliberation and debate on the neighbourhood plan, therefore, are held over until next month.
The neighbourhood plan is hotly debated. For a full account, see the account of June’s Parish Council meeting.
The Parish Council resolve to send the following statement to the NEW-V Neighbourhood Planning Steering Group.
“It is the understanding of Lydiard Millicent Parish Council that if Lydiard Tregoz exits NEW-V, Wiltshire Council will be unable to allow Lydiard Millicent to continue as part of the NEW-V Group as this will not make sense in Planning terms.
Accordingly, whilst respecting the wish of Lydiard Tregoz Parish Council it is RESOLVED TO OBJECT to their leaving NEW-V, unless Wiltshire Council can provide assurances to the satisfaction of the Parish Council that the Parish of Lydiard Millicent will not be detrimentally affected.”
Although perhaps not all of the councillors appreciated it at the time, the Council’s Standing Orders provide that a resolution cannot be reversed within six months except by a special motion. The resolution could, therefore, potentially delay progress further.
The official minutes for the July Parish Council Meeting record that it was “RESOLVED to continue with work on current chapters written for Lydiard Millicent, making any necessary adjustments; and to contact Wiltshire Council for a definitive view on this Councils future position with NEW-V.”
For an alternative, fuller, unofficial, account of the discussions, see July’s Parish Council meeting.
To be continued, possibly.
In a future piece, we’ll be looking at ways forward and what could happen next.