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Hawkwell Neighbourhood Plan – Better Late Than Never?

January 19, 2013 by  

Casino Chips with houses on top

Christine and I went to a Hawkwell Parish Council Meeting in August 2011 to explain that the findings of the Hawkwell Parish Plan could be taken forward by Hawkwell Parish Council in the form of a Neighbourhood Plan (“NP”).

All of this is about more houses for Hawkwell and the views residents made clear in the Survey ” residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt”.

We saw this as an urgent matter because we foresaw that the Core Strategy (“CS”) would have to be revised or reviewed by the District Council because it was going to be late in providing the target required by Government and that it did not comply with the NPPF (” National Planning Policy Framework”) or the Government Policy “Planning for Growth” (means more houses).

We wrote to Hawkwell Parish Council again in March 2012 urging that they got involved in a Neighbourhood Plan quickly because RDC (“Rochford District Council “) had already a Committee Meeting which decided on how the Revised Core Strategy would be taken forward.

We told Hawkwell Parish Council;

“It seems to us that every Option, regardless of which might be chosen, has the risk of additional housing being required in the Core Strategy Location of South Hawkwell which is actually Hawkwell West Ward. Or indeed a new additional Location in Hawkwell Parish?

It occurs to us that your Council, on behalf of the Parish whose views are expressed in the Hawkwell Parish Plan which your Council has adopted, may wish to now formally consider whether there is any significant requirement/need/capacity in sustainability/opportunity for additional housing by producing a Neighbourhood Plan.

Whilst it is known and accepted that a Neighbourhood Plan, as provided for by Law in the Localism Bill, could not change the position on the 175 dwellings already in the Core Strategy we believe that with careful thought a Neighbourhood Plan produced now might prevent significant addition.

This could allow any future decision to be directly influenced and formed by the residents of Hawkwell rather than by any other means or other bodies, which would appear to have been the case, in my opinion, to the Core Strategy adopted on 13 December 2011.”

But it was only at Full Council for Hawkwell Parish in January 2013, almost another year later and eighteen months after we had personally been to talk to them, that the Appointment of Councillors to a Neighbourhood Plan Working Group took place.

The Clerk to Hawkwell Parish Council writes “Full Council didn’t initially specify a report back date to the Working Group as the Chairman indicated that the matter is incredibly complex with numerous issues to be taken into consideration. At the Full Council meeting it was reported that a NP can take anything from eighteen months to two years to complete……….”

Is it too late?

Probably because in our view  Rochford District Council will have already decided well within eighteen months to 2 years time.

How do we know?

In July 2012 RDC published a revision of the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment) which identified further sites for potential development in Hawkwell. (See our Article)

The SHLAA report was linked to Options to proceed the Inspector’s requirement of initial approval of the CS for a Revision of the Core Strategy to plan, inter alia, for a shortfall of 402 from 2006 to 2011 and to extend the CS from 2025 to 2031 at a probable minimum of 250 per year.

This potentially adds up to an additional 2000 dwellings for the district as a whole if windfalls do not extinguish at least the shortfall of 402 houses.

My question is what effect does the revised SHLAA have on any intention of Hawkwell Parish Council to put in place a Neighbourhood Plan and secondly what is the effect of a Revision of the CS which is already underway by RDC on the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan.

Here is a comment that we obtained from a professional planner;

“A Neighbourhood Plan can allocate sites for development as it wishes, with the SHLAA being a key evidence document to inform that process.”

“In respect of the revision of the CS, the Neighbourhood Plan must seek to be “in general conformity” with the CS.

So the NP cannot be seen as a tool to try and undermine what the adopted CS is trying to do, or what the revised CS is seeking to achieve either.

So with Rochford DC seeking to take forward a revised CS and Hawkwell potentially looking at an NP, it will be important to ensure that the two try – as far as is possible or necessary – to push in the same direction.”

BUT………………….

It is important to recognise that Hawkwell Parish Council has NOT YET DECIDED to produce a Neighbourhood Plan .

The Hawkwell Parish Council says “The Working Group has been set up to consider a Neighbourhood Plan taking into account potential costs, resource requirements, support within the community and outcomes of other Councils who have gone down the NP route, etc.,”

Unfortunately it might now be too late for a Neighbourhood Plan to have the desired benefit for residents.

But could it still be ” better late than never” ? Hawkwell Parish Council has a difficult decision to make.

Our view is that once again any opposition will have to be mounted by your District Councillors and any residents action group that decides to wade in with energy to hold public meetings and leaflet (1800 for just every house in Hawkwell West or over 5000 for the whole of Hawkwell. We do not know whether the existing HAG or CTFDAG will perform this role or whether residents need to set up a new Action Group.

According to the HPPG (Hawkwell Parish Plan Group) residents do not want to see any further development and loss of green belt.

We believe that no further encroachment on existing Green Belt boundaries should take place. Existing boundaries should be retained and, in determining the number of new houses that are needed in Hawkwell, to take account of the views of the residents of Hawkwell. Residents must not be dictated to by other authorities in isolation and without taking full account of the effects on the local environment, heritage and infrastructure for existing residents.

Please feel free to contact Christine or I if you wish any further clarification. 

 

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