- / Neighbourhood Plan
REFERENDUM APPROVES NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
The referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan has resulted in a substantial majority in favour of the Plan. The Question asked in the referendum was as follows:
“Do you want Cheshire East Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Bollington to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
The result of the referendum was 1629 votes for Yes and 180 votes for No. The total number of votes cast was 1812 (with 3 ballot papers rejected as void for uncertainty) representing 29.33% of the eligible electorate.
The Examiner’s Report and the Final Version of the Plan
The Examiner’s Report included the following statements:
“The Bollington NP is a logical, concise, well written document which is commendably illustrated and a pleasure to read.
I have made recommendations to modify a number of policies and text to ensure the Plan meets the Basic Conditions and other legal requirements. I recommend that the Plan, once modified, proceeds to referendum.
The Steering Group and the Town Council are to be commended for their efforts in producing a thorough document which, incorporating the modifications I have recommended, will make a positive contribution to the development plan for the area, assist in creating sustainable development and help to find the right balance between the protection of surrounding land whilst enabling necessary development to proceed.”
The following discussion sets out the background to the Plan, and the content of the Final Version of the Plan including the modifications recommended by the Examiner.
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 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 significant unacceptable effect to any of them’. The word ‘significant’ has been added as an Examiner recommendation. 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 Policies for Housing. The Examiner recommended deleting reference to numbers of dwellings in Policy HO.P1 because this will be decided by CEC allocations of 3,500 dwellings between the 13 Local Service Centres. However, our calculations of 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 remain in the Justification section. Policy HO.P2 deals with Housing Locations, with support for development on brownfield sites and suitable infill and windfall sites, not on Green Belt except for very special circumstances. Within the settlement boundary development is required to meet the needs of Bollington, to be of an appropriate scale and size to integrate with the existing development pattern and provide required levels of parking and public open space.
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. The Examiner deleted our proposal in Policy HO.P5 that new houses should have a minimum of one permanent parking space per bedroom on the grounds that we should stick to the requirements of the Cheshire East Local Plan.
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. The Examiner recommended that the restrictions on change of use should be amended to be consistent with the Cheshire East Local Plan and placed in the supporting Justification. No changes were recommended to Policies EB.P2 covering growth in high-value specialisms, which currently employ around 750 people in Bollington, or EB.P3 covering support for growth of home based businesses. 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 Examiner recommended deletion of a time limit required for marketing residential sites before change of use and some adjustment to class restrictions to be consistent with Government policy.
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. Following our consultations at the Regulation 14 stage we had amended the Green Belt Policies to respond to Cheshire East Council comments to give 3 Policies in the Green Belt part of this section of the Plan, but the Examiner recommended deleting two of these because he considered that they duplicated existing Cheshire East Local Plan Policies. We had also tried to add Hall Hill to the ‘Local Green Space’ list following recommendations from the professional advisors on extending the Bollington Cross Conservation Area to include Lowerhouse but the Examiner recommended deleting this as not complying with the National Policy guidelines. 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 Examiner made recommendations to clarify the wording of Policies ENE.P1 and ENE.P2 so that they gave clear guidance to Planning Officers in making decisions.
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 Examiner recommended modifying the wording to refer to the effect of development within one of the Conservation Areas or its setting, rather than stipulating a specific distance from the Conservation Area. The second Policy requires that new developments must not harm key landscape focal points in the proximity of the 4 Conservation Areas. The Examiner recommended deleting reference to protecting against unsuitable development in the Lowerhouse area until full Conservation Area status is attained here as this extension was still at the proposal stage. Work to extend the existing Bollington Cross Conservation Area to include Lowerhouse has been in progress for the past 3 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. No changes were recommended by the Examiner here.
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 Examiner recommended deletion of the requirement of one permanent parking place per bedroom in the second part of this Policy to be consistent with the Cheshire East Local Plan but the requirement to provide visitor parking for new developments remains.
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.
HOW TO VIEW THE PLAN
The Final Version of the full Plan can be downloaded or viewed on the Internet here and hard copies can be examined at Bollington Library and at Bollington Town Hall.
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