Fernhurst neighbourhood plan ‘has power’

A neighbourhood plan for Fernhurst will have ‘teeth’ was the frequent assurance to a packed audience at a public meeting in the village.

The meeting was held to explain the concept and how it might be achieved.

Parish council chairman James Cottam said the benefits of having a neighbourhood plan became clear as the government’s Locality Bill approached completion and becoming law.

The power of deciding what a parish wanted within its boundaries would be given to the parish, and the plan would have ‘teeth’ with a few exceptions.

Mr Cottam said the council applied for front-runner status, which was accepted, and was given a grant from the South Downs National Park Authority of around £20,000, much of which would go on a village referendum when the plan was completed.

Tim Slaney, the park authority’s planning officer, told the meeting a neighbourhood plan was important, not least to the SDNPA as the planning authority for the area.

He pointed out some of the issues the document would address. It had to conform to the overall strategic plan for the area, and the more community input the better.

The start, for the authority, was the overview of the future need for shops, transport, growth,and infrastructure in the park area, at the same time as it was committed to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

The authority also had to foster the economic well-being of the park’s community – not always considered easy bedfellows, Mr Slaney said.

Also speaking at the meeting was Chris Bowden from Navigus, which has been employed by the parish council to head up the plan. It would be a policy document to direct future development and had to be a positive force, Mr Bowden said.

Anyone in Fernhurst parish who would like to be involved in a working group, or comment, should write to the parish council at its office in the village hall or email postmaster@fernhurst-wsx-pc.gov.uk.