Five years in the making – plan vote due in July

Cawledge Business Park  neighbourhood plans set out which areas should be used for housing or employment land.
Cawledge Business Park  neighbourhood plans set out which areas should be used for housing or employment land.

A referendum on the Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan, which will set out how the area should develop, is likely to take place in July.

An update on the progress of the plan, on which work started in 2011, was given at this month’s meeting of Alnwick Town Council.

Following consultations in 2011, 2012 and 2015, the submission draft was completed in July 2015, and submitted to Northumberland County Council.

The council appointed an independent examiner, usually a planning inspector, who wrote a report recommending modifications.

One of the main issues was that the Alnwick plan has 63 policies when it is more usual to have around 20.

The inspector has recommended deleting 21 policies as well as other changes.

The neighbourhood plan steering group has agreed to the deletion of 15, but has decided to argue the case for the other six.

The final decision will be the county council’s before the amended plan is put to referendum, earmarked for July, in which at least half of those who vote must support the plan.

Coun Pat Holt and Coun Alan Symmonds recognised the efforts of the neighbourhood plan steering group, but also welcomed the professional scrutiny from the examiner, who was described as ‘probably the most experienced neighbourhood-plan inspector in the country’.

Coun Gordon Castle pointed out that as Alnwick was one of the trailblazers in terms of neighbourhood plans, there were no others to follow or learn from. “There isn’t even a Northumberland Core Strategy yet,” he added.

Neighbourhood plans explained

Neighbourhood plans are the most local of the three levels of the planning system. They must fit in with the policies of the Northumberland Core Strategy (or Local Plan) and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Neighbourhood planning was introduced through the Localism Act in 2011 and aims to give communities the opportunity to shape and define how their area should grow and change in the future. In Northumberland, it must be led by parish and town councils.