Note of the Meeting 1
Attending: Kenneth Hartley, Ros Nicholson, George Halstead, Keith Sykes, Ken Hartley, Bob Partington, Bob Smith, Dave Hartnup, Cath Halstead, John Yellowley, John Holcroft, Jonathon Ingham, Tamsin Hartley, James Stavely, Corinne Singleton. Also attending from Lancaster City Council, Paul Hatch, Jennifer Milligan.
Paul Hatch told the meeting that the Council is about to adopt its new Development Management document, which sets out the policy base for the new Local Plan. It is also working on a range of supplementary documents (including the special guidance for the Arnside and Silverdale AoNB). It is continuing to prepare the Land Allocations document which will say where the expected levels of new housing are to be accommodated.
He explained that the job of the council is to identify land for future business, housing and retail development needs, and also to identify land which is worthy of protection, ensuring that Council policies/decisions are in line with the National Planning Framework and Guidance which they must support. The Council had prepared a draft allocations plan in 2012, but new evidence meant that this had to be revisited – including through the recent strategic housing options consultation. Now the research by Turleys is to be re-run taking account of new figures released by ONS. This is expected to reduce the headline 12,000 number, but probably only by a few thousand – there will still be significant housing numbers to find land for.
Tamsin Hartley asked whether, in addition to the base numbers, the scenario-planning and strongly aspirational approach to economic development – responsible for driving up the numbers to a much higher level – were also to be reconsidered. PH said that the details of the approach were still to be determined. It was agreed that it was important for Neighbourhood Planning to take account of the Local Plan context and timescales, and PH undertook to keep the group up to date with dates, actions, consultations etc.
With regard to Neighbourhood Planning, PH said that the Plan must be produced by the community. The Council could not do this on behalf of the community or direct it – its role is only to advise. It also receives national funding (£30,000 per Plan) for particular tasks such as running the referendum and for officer support and advice. The Council itself will not be offering any funding to Neighbourhood Plan groups. TH asked whether the group could ask for relevant officers to come and talk about potentially relevant issues/projects to the village – for example on rural businesses, rural housing, tourism, landscape, heritage and conservation. PH and Jennifer Milligan said this could be arranged with notice.
PH stressed that what the local community aspires to is what must direct a Neighbourhood Plan and its content. Planners specifically will be able to offer advice on the strengths/weaknesses in their opinion of draft Plans and on how draft Plan policies are best phrased. They will also – like other departments – share existing studies/data (for example on landscape and district housing studies and flooding maps).
He explained that the first decision must be on the boundary of the Plan; and that following on from adoption of a boundary the key pieces of work should be firstly to survey demand (for new housing, business units etc), and then secondly to consider local potential sites – and the phasing of these sites – to meet that demand. This would echo the processes of the Local Plan which would also be looking at phasing land release to support the strategic priorities adopted through the Development Management DPD.
TH noted that it would be important to meet national Housing and Planning Policy Framework requirements on reviewing and keeping evidence of local housing need up to date. Robert Partington and Keith Sykes asked about how local evidence of need and the large district (urban driven) figures would be reconciled. PH said that a combination of the strategic options for meeting the urban need where it arises may be a possibility. He emphasised that if a local community caters for local need which is justified by robust and clear evidence, then there is no case for imposing a requirement for meeting other areas’ needs upon that community – although in some instances a community may want to consider this (for example if a significant population increase is needed in order to keep facilities that are wanted by a community – eg a post office – alive).
In assessing sites a community will need to consider whether they are suitable (national definition and locally agreed criteria) and deliverable (taking account of viability options). Planning officers will be able to explain the approach they have taken to this at the District level. In the end a community’s Neighbourhood Plan will have, as national guidance states, to be ‘’in general conformity’’ with the Local Plan and its strategic policies.
Jennifer Milligan explained her role within the Council. She sits within the Strategic Planning Team but provides advice across the Council on good practice in relation to community engagement, and also on Diversity and Equalities. The meeting discussed the importance of active and regular community engagement in Neighbourhood Planning, including making best use of existing mechanisms and tailoring engagement methods to particular audiences.
JM said she would be happy to offer specific advice as requested. The first formal process requirement is for a group to provide the Council with a completed application form, a map of the Plan boundary and reasons for selecting that boundary, and a covering letter stating that a Plan is to be prepared in accordance with national Neighbourhood Planning regulations. However JM advised that the national programme of direct support and advice would only be available to new groups where the boundary had not yet been finalised, and that this support was nearly committed (as is the case with the national Neighbourhood Planning grants programme) and may close on the 1st October 2014.
She explained that the Council had decided to brief all district parish councils on Neighbourhood Planning. This briefing would take place on the 29th October 2014 (6.30-8.30 pm in Lancaster Library), with a presentation by a Yorkshire firm of consultants (Kirklees) who had undertaken paid work for other Neighbourhood Plan groups. Additionally she had recently finished analysing all the responses to the strategic housing options consultation, and Councillors would be briefed on the results on the 2nd October 2014.
KS thanked PH and JM for coming to the first meeting of the group. They confirmed that they would be happy to attend future meetings, on request, although their availability may become more constrained if many other groups decide to take forward Neighbourhood Planning. PH and JM left the meeting.
The need for terms of reference for the group was discussed. These will have to complement the existing terms of reference for the Wray Parish Council Development Sub-group which will also have to be reviewed at the same time. Terms of reference as well as any meeting requirements will need to be considered and agreed by the Parish Council as the parent body. The importance of having Parish Councillors on both groups, acting as a direct link and able to provide regular briefings to the Parish Council on the work of the sub-groups was agreed. TH volunteered as a member of both sub-groups to review the terms of reference and draft a note for the Parish Council to consider as a starting point. Feedback on this will come to the next meeting.
ACTION: Tamsin Hartley
Although collective action is key to producing a Neighbourhood Plan, for organisational purposes it is practical for a Chair and Secretary to be elected (eg for receiving correspondence). After some discussion it was proposed, seconded and agreed that Tamsin Hartley should act as the Chair of the group (with meeting dates set to accommodate her ongoing study commitments).
Ros Nicholson said that she may be able to take on the Secretary role if no one else could be found, but only from December 2014. It was decided that KS would contact another village resident to see if they would be prepared to join the group and take on this role. If this proved not to be possible, Cath Halstead volunteered to provide temporary cover for the role.
ACTION: Keith Sykes
An initial discussion of existing community engagement routes (groups, mechanisms etc) identified: the Wray Village website (own site area required); Wrayly Mail; Parish Council, Institute, Church, Chapel, shop and Pub notice-boards; the school Friday newsletter; Over 60’s, WI, PTA, B4RN, Scarecrow Festival, Institute Committee, Church (including monthly Youth Drop-in), and Chapel (including Wray Toddlers).
The unexpectedly early closure of the Neighbourhood Planning grant programme in August was discussed. A new programme will be in place for April 2015, but no details are available on this yet. The Parish Council will discuss allocating some funding to the group next week, with feedback at the next meeting. It may also be possible for some funding raised by the Scarecrow festival/fair next year to be allocated for developing the Plan, subject to discussion and agreement at the village meeting on this next week. This would require changes to existing administrative structures. Other potential sources to be explored.
It was decided, given the late running of the meeting, to defer any remaining agenda items until the next meeting, and to call this early. The next meeting was therefore confirmed as Thursday the 11th September, at 7.00 pm in the Village Institute.