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So what's the point of a Neighbourhood Plan?

Interesting to see that houses in Shinfield are imposed on the community by WBC while houses in Hurst are rejected. After the furore over the possibility of four houses being built on the hallowed turf of Hurst, it is interesting to note how the residents of Shinfield get told to just put up with more development, even though they are already disappearing under a sea of new developments.


Perhaps that is the point? Like the “broken window syndrome” or leaving litter uncollected, one thing just leads to another. What difference will another few houses make when the area is already covered in them?


But the point we have continuously argued here on green4grow is that we need our green spaces even MORE than places like Hurst simply because they are so precious! We do not have much left, and to keep chipping away at it with a few houses here and a few more there is leading to the complete erosion of our sense of place and community.


As an Arborfield and Newland Parish Councillor I was asked to help write the Arborfield and Newland Neighbourhood Plan. At the time we all felt very proud of the plan but increasingly it feels like all that hard work was a waste of time. We agonised for months over the policies, and consulted regularly and widely on them. In the end it came down to just a few key points:


● Identity and Rural Setting

● Thriving Communities

● Appropriate Development

● Getting Around


A useful summary of the plan is here but central to my argument here is IRS 1.

POLICY IRS1: PRESERVATION OF SEPARATION OF SETTLEMENTS

In order to protect the separation of settlements, development proposals outside of development limits designated in the Managing Development Delivery Local Plan 2014 will be required to comply with Policy CP11 of the Core Strategy and: a) Preserve the character and appearance of the countryside; and b) Not lead to the physical, visual or perceived coalescence of existing settlements. Notes The policy makes clear that separation of the various settlements is a priority and a high bar is required to justify any development in the countryside.


The development limits are clearly defined (see map below) yet proposals such as the 4,500 houses in the so called “Loddon Valley Garden Village” simply ignore these limits. So what was the point of writing the Neighbourhood Plan?


To go back to the article referred to above about the houses being imposed on Shinfield (against the wishes of Shinfield residents). In the article Cllr Frewin said "one parish councillor had asked him what the point of a neighbourhood plan is if they are repeatedly ignored by Wokingham."


Now that Twyford and Finchampstead are seeking approval for their own Neighbourhood Plans this seems a very good time to be asking that very question! Meanwhile Shinfield Parish Council are conducting a survey into resident satisfaction with the acres of new housing already built. See the survey here: https://shinfieldparish.gov.uk/news/have-moved-into-a-brand-new-home-within-the-parish-in-recent-years/ It should prove very interesting reading when published 😉


NOTE: The Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan referendum was held on 6 February 2020. Residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Plan.

The result was as follows: YES votes 1,164 (94%) NO votes 72 (6%).


The Arborfield and Barkham Development Limits are shown below.



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