Government funding to help neighbourhood planning

THE government has unveiled an extra £23m to help more communities to get involved in neighbourhood planning.

The costly and time-consuming task is currently being carried out by communities across the Midhurst and Petworth area in a bid to shape 
future development over the next 15 years.

The plans allow people to put forward and vote on their proposals for the type of development in their area – and where it should go.

Communities can draw up ‘neighbourhood plans’ that can be used in determining planning applications, and ‘neighbourhood development orders’ that grant planning permission.

Kirdford villagers are among the first to have a plan set in stone, others in the area are still carrying out 
the work, while some have taken the decision not to produce one.

Petworth has started the process, but Midhurst town councillors have decided against.

Chairman of Midhurst’s planning committee Gordon McAra said: “The jury is still out on neighbourhood plans. Some will bring real benefit to parishes, particularly if they have a top-to-bottom examination of where 
they are and where they 
want to be.

“Others, if they are just an exercise in nimbyism, will probably fail, overridden by the examining inspector and local authority.

“There is normally a major cost involved in preparing plans and it’s worth considering whether a neighbourhood plan is really such a benefit.”

He said he believed Midhurst had taken the right approach.

“On the back of our existing town plan, we have agreed to have regular discussions with the national park so they understand our ambition for the town and any concerns we might have and feed this into their own local plan.”

It was a challenging exercise to establish a neighbourhood plan, including many hours of volunteering work, said Mr McAra. “There are concerns however that even with one in place, parishes will continue to feel pressure, particularly from housing developers.

It is likely the developers will continue to lobby the government to override parish council’s plans, using the government’s demands that further housing is built as a reason.

“Past experience has shown governments have overridden local policy to meet their objectives.”