- / Neighbourhood Plan
We hope that some time in March polling cards will drop through your letter box telling you the date for the referendum on the Bollington Neighbourhood Plan. At the time of writing we are awaiting the Report from the Independent Examiner appointed to report on whether the Plan complies with the Basic Conditions and should proceed to the referendum stage. Details of progress and a copy of the Plan document as submitted can be found below. Copies of correspondence raised by the Examiner can also be found here. It is usual for Examiners of Neighbourhood Plans to recommend some modifications to wording of Plans to ensure compliance with the Basic Conditions and to provide clarity for future planning decisions.
When we receive the Examiner’s final report, details will be published here. The significance of any changes recommended by the Examiner will be explained in a presentation of the overall position at the Town Meeting to be held on 13th March. The Plan will be adopted by Cheshire East Council if there is a majority vote in favour in the referendum so we need the support of as many people as possible to vote for acceptance of the Plan in the referendum
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee, in conjunction with Bollington Town Council, prepared a draft Neighbourhood Plan for Bollington. The Draft Plan was submitted for consultation to the local Community and a number of Statutory Consultees to meet legal requirements. The Consultation ended on 27th August.
The steering group have had the task of studying the consultation responses and sending the final revision to Cheshire East Council and then Andrew Mead, an independant examiner.
The initial response from the independant examiner dated 9th January can be viewed here.
A number of questions were raised in this response and a subsequent communication dated 17th January (Click here to view)
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee initially responded to the Independant Examiner on 17th January and this response can be viewed here. A subsequent document dated 24th January which addresses the questions raised in the Examiners Annex can be viewed here.
The response to comments made by Cheshire East Council at their own Regulation 16 consultation on the Bollington Neighbourhood Plan (item 11 of the Annex in the letter of 9th January) can be viewed here.
Overall Structure of the Neighbourhood Plan
A Neighbourhood Plan has to deal primarily with land use to support ‘sustainable development’ and the policies have to be clearly expressed so that they can be implemented by a Planning Officer or Committee on any relevant development proposals. Our Plan has been developed to respond as far as possible to the views of the Community expressed in the results from the Questionnaire in 2015 whilst satisfying also requirements of the National Policy Planning Framework and the Cheshire East Local Plan. There are 12 sections in all – after the initial ‘Introduction’ giving the background to Neighbourhood Planning, there is then a section on the ‘Vision for Bollington’. Sections 3 to 10 then cover individual topic areas setting out the Policies for each area and the underlying evidence and justifications to support the Policies. Section 11 sets out a number of Community Services and Community Actions which are not strictly matters that would be determined by a Planning Officer but are matters that will influence the overall character of Bollington in the future and which were considered important in the responses to the Questionnaire. Section 12 contains a list of supporting reference documents and a list of acronyms used in the Plan document.
Setting the Scene
Neighbourhood Plans are required to take a positive approach to sustainable development and cannot set out to stifle development – they can however, seek to ensure that any development is appropriate for their Community. At the end of Section 2 of our Plan, we have included a general Policy V1, ‘Maintenance of Community Attributes’, which sets out 4 conditions for sustainable development and states that ‘Development will be supported where the overall effect is a positive contribution to these attributes with no unacceptable effect to any of them’. This is intended to be a Policy with which all other Policies in the Plan must comply.
Bollington has seen significant increases in housing numbers over the last few years. There is a strong demand for housing here. Section 3 of the Plan sets out the numbers of dwellings we consider it reasonable to cater for to allow for the National Statistics Office predictions of the likely increase in population over the period 2010 to 2030. We believe that this number can be accommodated without any changes to the Green Belt, by using available brown field sites and existing approved sites. We will have to accept that the Cheshire East Council Local Plan has not yet determined its allocation of 3,500 dwellings between the 13 Local Service Centres and this could lead to an increase in the numbers for Bollington above that we have estimated to be appropriate.
Other Policies in the Housing Section of our Neighbourhood Plan deal with the Types and Design of Houses, and with Parking Provision for New Dwellings.
New dwellings will be required to incorporate materials and details appropriate for Bollington. To try to ensure that parking problems in Bollington are not aggravated by new developments, we have put forward a Policy that new houses should have a minimum of one permanent parking space per bedroom.
Employment, Business and Retail
In the sections of the Plan dealing with these issues, we have tried to implement the wishes of the majority of the Community reflected in the responses to the Questionnaire, that Bollington should continue to be a working Town and should provide adequate shopping and hospitality outlets for the Community. The Employment and Business section has 3 Policies, ‘Regeneration of Existing Employment Land’, ‘Support Business with High-Value Specialisms’ and ‘Encourage Home-Based Businesses’. These Policies support proposals that increase employment, but put restrictions on change of use of existing employment land, although regeneration involving release of some land for residential and public amenities will be supported provided there is no nett loss of employment numbers on the site compared to 31st December 2016. Growth in high-value specialisms, which currently employ around 750 people in Bollington, promises immediate economic benefits and will therefore be strongly supported. For the retail area, proposals for new retail outlets within the five areas identified as existing retail clusters will be supported and change of use to residential resisted - unless it has been demonstrated that a serious attempt has been made to find an alternative user.
The Green Environment
Significant importance is given in the Neighbourhood Plan to issues concerned with the Green Environment. This section of the Plan is divided into 3 parts, ‘Open Space’, ‘Green Belt’ and ‘Natural Environment’. The Policies in the Open Space part seek to ‘designate’, ‘maintain’ and ‘enhance’ existing and new Open Spaces and provide a new designation of ‘Local Green Space’ to provide strong protection against development for 6 specific areas of Bollington regarded as particularly special to the Community. There are 2 Policies in the Green Belt part of this section of the Plan, both seeking to preserve the existing areas of Green Belt. It must be noted that it is not within the power of the Neighbourhood Plan, or the Town Council, to designate or change Green Belt boundaries but we have made clear within our Plan the wishes of our Community. The Natural Environment section of the Plan has 4 Policies, concerned with protecting any wild-life habitat areas of the Town, recognising the location of Bollington as partly within the Peak Park Fringe and maintaining views of important local landmarks, including White Nancy and Nab Head, and supporting the importance of footpaths in the area.
The Built Environment and Heritage
In the Built Environment and Heritage section of the Plan, there are 2 Policies. The first of these is concerned with maintaining Bollington as an Historic Town and preserving the character of the four Conservation Areas. The second Policy requires that new developments must not harm key landscape focal points in the proximity of the 4 Conservation Areas with special emphasis on protecting against unsuitable development in the Lowerhouse area until full Conservation Area status is attained here. Work to extend the existing Bollington Cross Conservation Area to include Lowerhouse has been in progress for the past 2 years and is a Community Action in Section 11 of the Plan.
Tourism and Leisure
In the response to the Questionnaire, there was some support for a modest expansion in Tourism to attract more visitors to the Town and support employment in the retail and hospitality business areas, provided attention was paid to the need for availability of supporting infrastructure, such as toilets and parking. A separate plan for supporting increased Tourism has been drawn up by Destination Bollington, a group of volunteers involved in the business of the visitor economy. There is one Policy and one Community Action in the Neighbourhood Plan expressing support for modest growth in tourism.
Moving Around and Infrastructure
Although the Neighbourhood Plan has to be concerned primarily with planning decisions for land use, in the Questionnaire, probably the greatest concerns expressed by the Community were related to road safety and parking issues. Clearly it is valid for the Plan to have policies concerned with these matters in relation to any new developments. There are 2 Policies in section 9 concerned with Moving Around. The first of these is aimed at trying to ensure safety and efficiency of moving around, applied to all road users including pedestrians, cyclists and cars.
The second Policy on Moving Around is in two parts – the first part expresses planning permission support for improvements for public parking permission and expresses support for optimising existing car park arrangements. The second part of this Policy confirms the housing Policy requiring one permanent parking place per bedroom and also requires visitor parking for new developments.
The Plan recognises the importance of Infrastructure in Section 10 with two Policies. The first of these is aimed at providing support for the Moving Around Policies to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The Neighbourhood Plan team obtained a grant from Locality for more extensive studies by a team of professional architects and traffic engineers to be carried out. The Report from the professional team will be subject to separate consultation with the Community in due course.
The second Infrastructure Policy sets out to give planning support for signage and heritage storyboards, provided they are of appropriate high quality, to provide information on attractions in Bollington and its Heritage for visitors.
Community Services and Community Actions
As noted above, this section of the Plan is not concerned directly with land use but represents aspirational improvements for development as and when funding can be made available.
There are nine ‘Community Actions’ in this section on various aspects related to improvements in the Community but not directly involving land use.