What is happening with the Neighbourhood Plan?
Following the Regulation 14 public consultation for people living in the Neighbourhood Plan area, the draft Plan was reviewed and amended to take residents’ views into account. The FAQs on the website were also updated to respond to some queries that people raised during the consultation.
The revised draft Plan was then submitted to Wiltshire Council, which undertook its own consultation exercise, called Public Consultation (Regulation 16). This process closed on 8 November. There were comments made by both statutory bodies and by members of the public.
The MANP Steering Group reviewed these comments and went back to Wiltshire Council with observations and explanations were necessary (some of the comments repeated those from the Regulation 14 exercise and have already been addressed). There is unfortunately still some misunderstanding as to what the remit of the Neighbourhood Plan is. For example, it is not within the power of the Steering Group to allocate land for an expanded surgery (identified by the surgery itself and by local people as a key need). It is for the Clinical Commissioning Group and the surgery to provide the service needed. The Steering Group tried to support the surgery in that task by facilitating discussions with the Police Commissioner about using the old police station (not pursued by the surgery) and by asking landowners for sites that might be used. The only site offered was that close to the leisure centre in Barton Dene. Neither can the MANP provide land for sports; no landowners offered such land. The next best thing the MANP can do is have policies to reflect the priority to be given in these areas, which, if the Plan is adopted, will inform Wiltshire Council planning decisions.
It was encouraging to see comments which endorsed the Plan, and supported the suggested sites for housing, which would help with the provision of affordable housing.
Wiltshire Council has appointed an independent external examiner, whose role it is to review the draft plan and confirm whether it should go forward for a referendum.
Wiltshire Council has not provided a timescale, but any referendum would probably not be held before February 2022.