Sunday, August 19, 2018

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Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan

Working for Gillingham's future






Following the submission of the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan to North Dorset District Council a number of things will happen;

  • Checking - On receiving the submitted plan proposal and supporting documents, North Dorset District Council is responsible for checking that the submitted neighbourhood plan has followed the proper legal process, such as the neighbourhood area being designated and the legal requirements for consultation and publicity having been followed. The local authority is then responsible for publicising the plan, arranging for the independent examination and arranging for the referendum to take place.
  • Publicity - The plan must be publicised for a six-week period (Regulation 16). This should not be confused with the earlier pre-submission consultation (Regulation 14). North Dorset District Council will also notify anyone referred to in the consultation statement that the plan has been received. The pre-submission consultation will have been the responsibility of the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan Group and allowed anyone to comment on any aspect of the plan. The publicity period after the submission of the plan is different. Any representations made at this stage will be passed to the independent examiner and will only be considered within the context of the independent examination (i.e. whether the neighbourhood plan proposal meets the basic conditions).
  • The independent examination - North Dorset District Council will appoint an appropriately qualified and experienced person to carry out the independent examination of the neighbourhood plan, known as the ‘independent examiner’. This appointment has to be agreed with Gillingham Town Council.  North Dorset District Council will send to the independent examiner the plan and supporting information and also a copy of any comments received during the publicity period. The independent examiner will take these comments into account insofar as they relate to the remit of the independent examination. Normally, the independent examination will be conducted by written representations. However, if it is considered necessary, the examiner may invite interested parties to a public hearing to present their comments. This might be necessary to examine an issue in more depth or to ensure fairness. The independent examiner will only consider whether the proposed neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions and other requirements set out by law (they are not permitted to explore other considerations). The independent examiner may request further information if they think the plan may transgress European directives.
  • The independent examiner's report - Following the examination, the examiner will issue a report to North Dorset District Council and Gillingham Town Council. If the plan meets the basic conditions, the examiner will recommend that the plan proceed to the referendum stage. They may suggest modifications that are needed to be made to the plan, to ensure that it meets the basic conditions, before it can proceed to the referendum. It is the responsibility of North Dorset District Council to make such modifications. The examiner may conclude that the plan does not meet the basic conditions and that modification to make it meet the basic conditions is not possible. In that situation the examiner would recommend that the plan does not proceed to the referendum. If the plan can proceed to referendum (with or without modifications) the examiner will be required to advise the District Council on the referendum voting area. This may include people beyond the boundary of the neighbourhood area. It is the responsibility of North Dorset District Council to cover the costs of the independent examination and referendum. If the independent examiner recommends that the plan does not proceed to a referendum, it will be necessary to consider the reasons behind that recommendation and to consider whether the plan can be amended. This should be discussed with North Dorset District Council. It may also be necessary to consult  again with local partners or stakeholders.
  • Modifications - If North Dorset District Council can make modifications to the neighbourhood plan that will ensure it meets the basic conditions and can proceed to referendum then they are required to make those modifications. They will take account of the independent examiner’s report, but its recommendations are not binding (though clear reasons would need to be given for departing from it).  Modifications should be discussed with Gillingham Town Council to ensure consensus. Gilllingham Town Council has the option of withdrawing the plan if it is unhappy with the changes being made by North Dorset District Council. As soon as possible after modifying the plan, North Dorset District Council must publicise details of the modification(s) and where it can be inspected on their website.
  • Referendum - If the neighbourhood plan is found to be satisfactory, with modifications if necessary, then North Dorset District Council will arrange for the referendum to take place. This will be organised by the elections unit and 28 working days before the date of the referendum, the local authority is required to publish information about the neighbourhood plan. Then 25 working days before the date of the referendum, they are required to give notice that a referendum is taking place and the date of the poll.  Gillingham Town Council may encourage voting and disseminate information on the proposed neighbourhood plan, within reasonable expense limits.  Public money and parish councils can only produce factual material about the neighbourhood plan, not promote a ‘yes’ vote.  However, members of the parish council and others may act independently, using independent funds, to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote. The question that will be asked is as follows:

Do you want North Dorset District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Gillingham to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?

People on the electoral register will be entitled to vote in the referendum.  In business areas, there will be two referendums – one for residents and one for non-domestic ratepayers.  If more than 50% of those voting in the referendum vote ‘yes’, then North Dorset District Council is required to bring the plan into force.  Where there is business area, a ‘yes’ vote will also be required in the business referendum.  If there is a different result from the business referendum and the residents’ referendum, North Dorset District Council will decide whether to bring the plan into force.

  • Delivery - Once a neighbourhood plan is brought into legal force, it forms part of the statutory Development Plan for that area.  Consequently, decisions on whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area will need to be made in accordance with the neighbourhood plan (as part of the statutory development plan), unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Having a plan in place is just part of the story – just as important is seeing those ambitions materialise as real changes on the ground.  Having a plan and waiting for development is one thing, but elements of the plan may need active interventions on the part of the community, the local planning authority, other organisations and other key stakeholders. In both areas of high growth and deprivation, there may be some kinds of development that the market is unable or unlikely to deliver.  Community-led development may be the solution in such instances.