Lydiard Millicent could be missing out on the opportunity to influence important planning decisions.
Lydiard Millicent’s Chapter of the draft New V Neighbourhood Plan was finalised, and circulated around the village, in September 2014. Yet Lydiard still lacks a neighbourhood plan. Whilst Purton pushes ahead with their own neighbourhood plan, progress on Lydiard’s has ground to a halt.
With Custom Land posed to submit an application for 60 new homes off the Mews, some would argue that a neighbourhood plan has never been more needed.
In the first of three articles on the neighbourhood plan, we answer two questions What’s a neighbourhood plan, and does Lydiard Millicent need one anyway?
What’s a neighbourhood plan?
Neighbourhood plans were made possible under the Localism Act 2011. The basic idea is to give local communites a say in how their areas are developed.
A Neighbourhood Plan is a community-led document, which becomes part of the local plan when adopted. This means the planning authority has to consider it when they are deciding whether or not to grant permission for new developments.
For areas, like Lydiard Millicent, where there is a parish council, the parish council is responsible for producing the neighbourhood plan. However, following National Planning Guidance, the council should work with other members of the community who are interested in, or affected by the neighbourhood plan, allowing them to play an active role in preparing the neighbourhood plan.
This reflects that deciding what goes into the neighbourhood plan should be a bottom-up, grass roots process. People in the community should come together, to share their vision for the future. Through debate, consultation, and a fair amount of paper-pushing, this is then pulled together into a draft neighbourhood plan. The process of formal adoption can then begin.
Lydiard Millicent’s case is complicated by its membership of a wider neighbourhood planning area, called New V (North East Wiltshire Villages). Although Lydiard’s chapter of the New V neighbourhood plan was completed in September 2014, other villages were not ready. Since then there has been further delay and disagreement. The net result is that, nearly two years later, Lydiard Millicent is no closer to seeing its neighbourhood plan adopted.
What’s in a neighbourhood plan for Lydiard?
A neighbourhood plan can’t block development, and it has to be consistent with the county’s wider strategic plan. However, the policies and proposals in a neighbourhood plan are relevant when planning applications are determined. So, for example, if a community wants to see affordable housing in a particular area, or to protect an open space, the neighbourhood plan should reflect this.
In Lydiard Millicent’s case, the draft neighbourhood plan says that the community “has its own identity and wishes to remain a separate village, avoiding coalescence with Swindon.” It also says that “there is a desire for high quality, environmentally sensitive, small scale development to provide housing to accommodate the older population and young people/families who wish to remain in the village.”
If the plan were adopted, then the planning authority would have to give material consideration to these things when considering any future application for development. However, with the draft plan in its current state, the planning authorities cannot attach any weight to it. In planning terms, it’s irrelevant.
Another reason for adopting a neighbourhood plan is that it allows the community to keep a higher proportion of any community infrastructure levy (“CIL”) within the community.
The CIL is effectively a contribution imposed on developers to reflect the additional costs on infrastructure. Without a neighbourhood plan in place, the parish is entitled to 15% of the receipts. With a neighbourhood plan in place, this percentage rises to 25%. Having a neighbourhood plan in place means more money can be spent on the local community where the development is taking place, rather than in the wider local authority area.
That means Lydiard Millicent could see a bigger chunk of money to fund community projects.
In future articles, we’ll be looking at Lydiard Millicent and the New V neighbourhood plan, including a timeline, and where Lydiard Millicent goes from here.
In the meantime, if anybody’s got any news or views on the neighbourhood plan, then we’d love to hear them.