Hockliffe Neighbourhood Plan – what is it?
For a long time, planning decisions about where and how to develop land, whether by putting up new buildings or changing the use of existing buildings, were made solely by District Councils. In our area, it was South Beds District Council until Bedfordshire became two unitary authorities. Now it is Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC).
Parish Councils have always been able to make representations about planning applications, but the final decision rests with CBC.
In about 2011, the Government wanted local people to make local decisions about planning matters as much as possible. After all, local people were the ones who had to put up with the consequences of planning decisions.
So the concept of a Neighbourhood Plan was invented. Now, for the first time, a Parish Council could become a planning authority in its own right (within certain limits) and make real decisions about planning matters. It can create a Neighbourhood Plan for its Parish, setting out how it wants the Parish to develop over the next 20 years or so. This vision can include all forms of development within the Parish – residential, business, recreational, community facilities and green spaces. After extensive consultation, residents vote on the draft plan in a simple yes/no referendum. Only if the residents vote in favour of the Plan does it become effective. If the Plan passes the referendum, then the district planning authority (in our case CBC) has to make planning decisions in conformity with the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan.
Hockliffe Parish Council started drafting a Neighbourhood Plan for Hockliffe in order to implement parts of the action plan in the 2013 Parish Plan, which itself was drawn up following extensive consultation in the village.
But Hockliffe’s attempts at a Neighbourhood Plan have been fraught with difficulties caused by:
- The fact that CBC are developing their own Local Plan at the same time and they are taking ages to get it past the Inspectors;
- The fact that what CBC say they want in their Local Plan as regards Hockliffe keeps changing;
- The fact that Hockliffe is surrounded by Green Belt land and different rules apply to Green Belt land;
- The fact that the village is divided on the question of further development with some residents against it and others seeing the potential benefits;
- The fact that the law relating to Neighbourhood plans is often updated.
Article written by Cllr Paul Dickens