Neighbourhood plan: ‘Chance for Sidmouth to move ahead together’
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Matters of transparency, transport, scope and second home ownership formed the first public discussions on a community project to shape the future of the Sid Valley.
Residents were told this is the ‘perfect opportunity to be listened to’ when they packed into St Teresa’s Hall last week to be informed by town councillors about the steps in creating a Neighbourhood Plan, writes Eleanor Pipe.
There was also a rallying call for volunteers from the community to drive the project forward. The process is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete at an estimated cost of £46,000. The finished document will form a blueprint to influence future developments in the parish.
Councillor Michael Earthey is a member of a task and finish forum committee which has led the initiative through its initial stages. He emphasised that, once completed, the Neighbourhood Plan will become a ‘very important tool’ and will benefit all who live and work in Sidmouth, Sidbury, Sidford and Salcombe Regis.
Cllr Earthey said: “I am very pleased with the response so far and hope that the enthusiasm shown continues to the end of the process.”
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The next step is to recruit a chairperson and create a steering group of about 12 people from a cross-section of the community to bring all of the views together and collate them into a workable document.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Marc Kilsbie said: “This is the perfect opportunity to be listened to. I hear so many times that people feel they are not listened to – this is a chance for people to move forward together.”
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In response to a question about the statutory rights the document would offer, East Devon District Council’s neighbourhood planning officer Tim Spurway said: “It does hold real legal weight in the planning process.
“When a planning application comes in and we have a neighbourhood plan in place, there is a legal obligation for those to be taken into account.”
Asked if residents will be kept properly informed about the process, Cllr Louise Cole said: “We are very much committed to changing a perceived distrust of central government. There is a real drive for transparency and building confidence.”
The East Devon Local Plan – which is expected to be adopted imminently by the district council - is a broad document that sets out housing and development land until 2031 and beyond. It was explained that the Sid Valley Neighbourhood Plan will work alongside this and ‘drill down’ to shape specific allocations for the parish. One resident asked if the Neighbourhood Plan will influence infrastructure, such as traffic. They were told it will certainly look at traffic flow and the steering group would be expected to work with organisations such as Devon County Council in drawing up details. .
Cllr Dawn Manley asked if the Neighbourhood Plan will be able to specify types of accommodatio. She questioned if people want permanent residents, who will feed into the economy, or second home owners.
Cllr Cole gave the example of Lynton and Lynmouth, whose plan refers second home ownership. She added that affordable homes can also be included.
The closing date for registration of interest in the role of chairman of, or for inclusion on, the steering group is Monday, February 8. Contact the town clerk on 01395 512424 to find out more or visit: http://www.sidmouth.gov.uk/