Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Up to £20,000 of town funds could be spent on a neighbourhood plan designed to give residents a say on the future of their community.
The finished document would act as a planning policy for the parish; compiling local views on where future development should be located, which planners would be legally obliged to take in to account when considering applications.
But the idea of spending 12.5 per cent of the town’s annual budget on the project did not sit well with some councillors, who were concerned about the benefit it would actually bring.
Ottery Town Council had agreed to begin work on a Parish Plan in September last year, which would have cost £7,000 but carried less weight than a neighbourhood plan.
However progress stalled because of the cost, and since then several councillors attended a meeting where the benefits of the neighbourhood plan were outlined.
Addressing council colleagues at a meeting earlier this month, Mayor Glyn Dobson said: “This seems to be the way a lot of towns are going.”
“The cost is probably going to be in the region of £20,000, but there are grants available to help with funding it.”
The scheme is a relatively new initiative, having come into force as part of government localism legislation in 2012.
Fifteen parishes across East Devon have already signed up and started work on their plans, including Axminster, Clyst Honiton and Beer. £20,000 of council funds has been set aside to pay for the plan, but Councillor Paul Lewis questioned whether it represented value for money for the town.
“This money is one eighth of the budget,” he said. “Would the neighbourhood plan have had any difference to the 300 houses planned for Ottery St Mary?”
“My experience from previous projects is that we will get very little benefit – we should know exactly what we are doing before we spend this sort of money. I’m yet to be convinced that we will get anything like £20,000 of benefit back.”
Members agreed to revisit the issue after two councillors have attended a meeting on neighbourhood planning in April.