What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
A Neighbourhood Plan is a new way for communities to decide the future of the place where they live. The Government has introduced the right to do neighbourhood planning through the Localism Act.
How can I make a Neighbourhood Plan?
You will be able to work with your community in the production of a Neighbourhood Plan to create a vision of how your area should grow and what it should look like. It is not a tool to stop development where it is already included in the Core Strategy / Local Plan; it gives you the opportunity to:
- shape what that planned growth will look like;
- share ideas and build consensus about needs and priorities for the area; and
- create lasting partnerships to take forward actions that may arise from the process.
Where do I start?
The first step in preparing a neighbourhood plan is to think about the issues and challenges faced by your neighbourhood. Our Neighbourhood Area is the Parish of Gillingham and it will be crucial to have the input of the whole community in this parish. You might like to talk to your neighbours when you are developing your ideas to find out what opinions other people have. You might also want to talk to members of community groups that you belong to and if you have opinions, you can voice them at the meetings that are being held by the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan Group (contact Gillingham Town Council on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01747 823588).
What support will there be for this in the community?
It is essential that the neighbourhood plan has the support of as many people in the local neighbourhood as possible residents, businesses, local groups, landowners and developers. Eventually a referendum will be held to give everyone in the community the opportunity to approve the plan produced.
Who is going to lead the way?
The Neighbourhood Plan is going to be produced by the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan Group (GNPG) which was formed on 29th February 2012 under the auspices of Gillingham Town Council (GTC). The group has begun by being a merger of the Gillingham Town Design Statement Steering Group and the Gillingham Town Plan Steering Group. The GNPG has already met a number of times, is meeting once a month with North Dorset District Council (NDDC) Planning Policy Officers and is reporting back on its activities to GTC on a regular basis.
How is it going to be funded?
As you may have read in the March 2012 issue of the Blackmore Vale Magazine, NDDC has been successful in its application for £20,000 front-runner funding towards the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan. This makes North Dorset one of the first areas in the country to use new neighbourhood planning powers introduced in the Localism Act. It is likely that the funds will be shared 50/50 between GTC and NDDC to cover the costs of producing the plan and paying for the independent examination and referendum that are required as part of the legal process before the plan can be adopted.
What have we done so far?
- The Town Design Statement Steering Group has published a 108-page document describing the built and natural environment of the town (see http://www.dorsetforyou.com/405456). Hard copies are available for viewing in the Town Hall and in the Library. The document identifies what is best about design in Gillingham and what is considered not to have been appropriate for the town. It has covered every aspect of design and layout and has the potential for being a blueprint for future planning. It was adopted as an evidence-based study by NDDC in March 2012 and will be regarded as a contributory part of the Neighbourhood Plan.
- The Town Plan Steering Group held a public consultation in July 2010, at which residents were invited to say what they liked or disliked about Gillingham and make positive suggestions for future improvements to the town. Subsequently, a questionnaire was developed based on responses to the consultation. The questionnaire was trialled and refined and initial results have been collated and are on display. These responses are being regarded as the first phase of input into the Neighbourhood Plan and will help shape our thinking for the next stage of formulating a vision for Gillingham.
- The Town Centre Regeneration Action Group has successfully secured a 25-year lease from Hall & Woodhouse to enhance the open space at the Town Meadow behind the Red Lion. Phase 1 started in July 2012 with the installation of a hard surface path linking Waitrose to the High Street. Phase 2 will see the ground strengthened to withstand heavy usage such as a fair or festival.
- The Open Spaces Survey 2005 has identified the open spaces and their importance to the town. Housing development must ensure the inclusion of grassy areas, gardens and playgrounds, and business development must ensure the proper provision of landscaping. Protection and extension of countryside walks, river corridors and cycleways must be an integral part of development in order to retain the countryside feel so valued by the residents of Gillingham.
Why do we need a Neighbourhood Plan now?
Gillingham has suffered from piecemeal development in the past, its population has doubled in the last decade or so and its infrastructure has not kept up. A Neighbourhood Plan is a new tool for our local community to take an active role in shaping the place where we live.
How will the community be involved?
It is our aim that by the time the referendum takes place every single person in the parish of Gillingham will have had an opportunity to contribute to or to comment on the Neighbourhood Plan. We will endeavour to approach every club, society, organisation and business asking for your input. We will then hold a public consultation for you to look at what we have put together and to provide further input / comment.