Monday, 02 March 2015

Fears communities will block development are unfounded, experts say

Neighbourhood plan seen as pro-development

The first community-produced development plan to reach examination stage shows that fears the government’s localism agenda will lead to widespread nimbysim are unfounded, experts claim.

Get on our land

People in Dawlish, a seaside town in south Devon with a population of around 13,000, have drawn up England’s first neighbourhood plan which recommends the development of 900 homes in the area over the next 20 years - the same number as the council recommended in its draft core strategy.

Despite fears that giving communities planning powers would lead to battles over house building, people in Dawlish have maintained the level of development suggested by Teignbridge Council, albeit in different locations.

Cameron Watt, head of neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said: ‘It’s positive that these first neighbourhood plans are demonstrating that local people do seem to be getting a real say on the nature and location of development but that they’re accepting the scale of housing need.’

Dawlish’s plan has emerged just weeks after the national planning policy framework, which sets out how communities can get involved with planning decisions, was published.

Elizabeth Boyd, associate director of planning consultancy Tetlow King, said: ‘There was some concern from developers that neighbourhood plans would block development but it has been made clear [in the NPPF] that that is not going to be the case. The plan in Dawlish has reflected that.’

Dawlish was one of 17 areas chosen by the government to pilot neighbourhood planning in April 2011. The consultation for its neighbourhood plan received more than 400 responses from the community.

The plan will be examined by Christopher Balch, professor of planning at the University of Plymouth, later this month. If Mr Balch decides the community’s proposals are valid, it will go to a referendum. If more than 50 per cent of the turnout vote in favour of the plan, Teignbridge Council must adopt it.

Rosalind Prowse, chair of the Dawlish neighbourhood plan steering group, said the changes the community had made to the council’s proposals showed ‘real democracy in action’.

Inside Housing is calling for more public land to be available for house building through our Get on our Land campaign.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Very admirable of the people of Dawlish however I still have my reservations about rural communites where 'local' people are / have been forced out by money. Take a look around the rural wilds of the Chilterns - what happened to the children who were born there say 30+ years ago?

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  • I am a Dawlish resident and I feel completely disengaged and disenfranchised from this planning. I was asked for opinions occasionally, my comments were disregarded and at one stage made a mockery of. Throughout this planning, I felt that community involvement was nothing more than a tick-box exercise. Wording throughout the plan is "airy" and non-committal. The questionnaires provided were over-simplified, insulting, disingenuous and misleading in many ways.

    In my opinion Dawlish residents were ridden roughshod to drive this plan through, and though they *say* it's 900 dwellings, actually there are a LOT more - because they've chosen not to take into account other planning already in the pipeline. I believe the plan has ignored both Dawlish's very unique topography, and its unusual demographics, and that so many dwellings are unsustainable in a place with higher-than-average unemployment,
    The local road/rail network really is not appropriate for this scale of development. Seems it's all about the money! So I believe, that despite what the press releases say - the majority of Dawlish residents do NOT want 900-PLUS more dwellings - NOT on the basis of nimbyism, but on the basis that they are simply unsustainable.

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  • We wish to make it clear the Dawlish Neighbourhood Plan is a pilot project and the result of the referendum will not be binding. Paragraph 8 states 'if more than 50 per cent of the turnout vote in favour of the plan, Teignbridge Council must adopt it'. Unfortunately, this statement in incorrect. Thank you, John Wilkinson

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  • It seems to me that the big problem with Neighbourhood Plans and planning consultation in general is the lack of public interest. 400 comments from a population of 13,500 does not amount to much. If we must continue with Pickles' pickle it is essential that LPAs properly engage with their electorate and drum up knowledge and interest although I admit that may be difficult. Perhaps it should be taught in schools that we get the local government and plans we deserve? Meanwhile, those few voters who do take an interest, feel ignored. It's not working is it?

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  • Nicole M

    FFS, if you go to all the trouble of deciding a plan (pilot or otherwise) and then the Council is not obliged to do anything about it, it is no wonder there is a lack of public interest.

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  • Having revisited the report - the Examiner's comments in 4.5 show a perverse logic. In plain English what he says is that economic conditions cannot be predicted so you must do what the NPPF dictates. If economic conditions cannot be predicted and by extension, housing requirements, why should we accept the predictions of the NPPF any more than the professor says we should accept the predictions of Devon County Council? Both predictions will be based on the same sources! Which economic theory shows that simple desiring and planning for growth actually causes it to materialize? What's the point of Local and Neighbourhood Plans if they are to be trumped by the NPPF?

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