After six years of work, the first Neighbourhood Plan for Birchington is being prepared for a referendum to be held in the autumn.
Under the Localism Act 2011, local communities can produce Neighbourhood Plans, setting out policies on the development and use of land in their area. If the Plans are adopted by the district council they will have the same weight as other Development Plan documents for the district.
The Birchington plan has been examined by an independent specialist who made a number of modifications. These have been accepted by the Parish Council and Thanet District Council, which has issued a “decision notice.”
This means the amended plan will now be taken into account when the district council considers planning applications in Birchington, but it won’t become a part of the legal planning framework unless there is a majority vote, at the referendum, in favour of the plan.
The plan means Birchington has local policies which:
- protect local green spaces from development
- provide a set of design guidelines and codes that developers will be expected to follow when preparing plans
- create three new Areas of High Townscape Value, where conservation and/or enhancement will be the primary aim
- seek greater protection for local heritage assets
- give greater emphasis to protecting trees and hedgerows as well as encouraging new planting
- support improved footpaths, cycle routes and other rights of way throughout the parish
- seek to ensure that utility providers can demonstrate sustainability when new developments are planned
- resist major development unless the Local Plan quota for “affordable homes” is met
- encourage community use of school premises
- support community and leisure facilities to respond to shortfall in provision
- involve the Parish Council in discussions about developer contributions to infrastructure and facilities for the community
- support local businesses and encourage better design of shop fronts and fascia’s
- support for education and health care facilities in appropriate locations
The Parish Council will use the policies when commenting on all future planning applications. The effectiveness of the plan will be monitored and subject to a review each year.
Parish Council Chairman Neville Hudson said: “I am so pleased to have reached this milestone after considerable effort and contributions from the community, businesses and my fellow parish councillors. The plan complements the district-wide Local Plan and strengthens our role in the planning system. Our Planning and Highways Committee, under Chairman Councillor Nick Blankley, can now assess applications against our local policies and this should lead to better outcomes for the parish in future.”
Thanet District Council will give notice of the referendum and arrange for it to be held. Everyone in Birchington Parish who is eligible to vote will be able to say whether they support the Neighbourhood Plan. A simple majority is necessary for the Plan to come into force.