Interest grows in Neighbourhood Plans
I've been at meetings in the past few weeks to get a Thriplow and Heathfield Neighbourhood Plan off the ground. Foxton are getting started and Shepreth too. Even little Newton is looking into this, while Duxford is reassessing whether it should take the plunge, following Sawston. And that's just the villages near me. Further afield there is good work being done in Swavesey, Cottenham, the Shelfords and Gamlingay.
Whittlesford's Neighbourhood Plan has been worked on since the end of last year and is getting to the stage where one draft of the plan and its policies can be drawn from the work of the various groups. Discussions with landowners is starting. Landowners, large and small, are key consultees and the plan would not be considered sound unless they are asked what aspirations they have for their land. I chaired the Whittlesford steering group week before last and met again with people this week to firm up next steps. Make no mistake, it is a deal of work for a community. You can read more about Whittlesford's plan here
Why is all this happening? In my view it is because people can see that to have a coherent and democratically mandated voice, to be listened to in any discussion over proposals for future development of a village, requires having a Neighbourhood Plan. It carries weight in planning law. And we we know these development discussions are a fact of life for most South Cambs villages.
Putting on my leader of the district council hat, I want South Cambs Council to be able to support this ambition by our villages. Some of the rules currently operating - for example that the results of a local referendum on a village plan cannot be announced until the next district council meeting has taken place - need to be revisited. I want to see more networking by villages on these things, helping each other, facilitated by the district council. And I want the developments in areas like transport - such as the proposed rural travel hubs put forward by the Greater Cambridge Partnership - to be accessible and understandable when plans are being formulated.