Neighbourhood Plans give the local community a legally binding say in the planning and development of their local area.
East Herts District Council is currently in the process of producing a Draft District Plan and Neighbourhood Plans are an important part of this process. The East Herts District Plan has been finalised and was presented to the Executive on 22nd September. It is now being printed and will be going out for Independent Evaluation over the next few weeks. We expect the new plan to be adopted in March 2017.
The Draft District Plan is designed to deliver a specific number or new houses as required by central government. The plan designates Widford as a Group 2 village and we are therefore too small to sustain any significant development and have no target. Infill is however still encouraged in Group 2 villages.
The new East Herts District Plan will not redraw our village boundary and the current boundary is of little value because a number of successful Planning Applications outside of the boundary.
Producing a Neighbourhood Plan would be a big challenge for a small village like Widford but if the Parish does not produce their own plan East Herts District Council would work with developers to ensure that our development target is met.
What is a Neighbourhood Plan?
Each Neighbourhood Plan is different but they will all include a number of policies which will define how the residents want the village to be developed. It is however essential that the Neighbourhood Plan is realistic and will allow the village to meet the development targets specified in the District Plan.
Most importantly a Neighbourhood Plan will allow each village to adjust their own village boundary.
Who would produce Widford’s Neighbourhood Plan?
Many towns and villages call for volunteers to form a steering committee to take responsibility for the Neighbourhood Plan. This group will usually include an external consultant with relevant experience and one or two members of the Parish Council.
How long does it take to produce and what is involved?
It is likely that a Neighbourhood Plan for a small village like Widford would take two to three years to produce.
The process has to be very formal because the final document must work in conjunction with the District Plan as well as delivering the houses required to meet East Herts District Council’s target.
The first step is to hold a public meeting to discuss the idea of a Neighbourhood Plan. The residents then decide if they want to produce a Neighbourhood Plan. A draft is then produced and submitted to an external independent assessor for review.
When would the Neighbourhood Plan become law?
All Neighbourhood Plans are part of the Draft District Plan and at the moment East Herts District Council are hoping to publish this in March 2017. However this is very much work in progress so the schedule could slip into 2017. As a Group 2 village Widford has no specific target in the new District Plan and the various developments which have been granted planning permission recently are a major contribution to East Herts’ target.
As a Neighbourhood Plan evolves its policies begin to be taken into account by the Development Committee but in practice they do not achieve the full force of the law until it is adopted.