Horncastle Town Council has produced a question and answer statement about the forthcoming Neighbourhood Development Plan referendum.
Residents will have the chance to either back or oppose the plan at a public referendum next month.
The News revealed last week that individual councillors had effectively been ‘gagged’ from commenting on the plan that will form a key part of the development of the town.
The council says the Q&A statement will clarifying several issues raised by campaigners calling for a no vote.
The council stress the Q&A - approved by ELDC’s monitoring officer - contains ‘only factual information’ and cannot be interpreted as influencing members of the public whether to vote yes or no.
Who has produced the Plan?
The plan has been initiated by Horncastle Town Council. A group of local residents then formed a steering group to develop the plan on the council’s behalf. The Town Council approved the plan in March 2015 and submitted it to ELDC for the next stage of the process.
Will the plan stop development?
No. There is no plan, either at a local or district level, that will prevent development coming forward. This is because the national policy is growth driven. However, the plan will help shape potential growth so that it reflects local character.
What does the plan contain?
The Horncastle Plan has a range of policies that concentrate on influencing the design and quality of housing development in the town and encourage proposals that enhance the quality of life in the town (eg improving the green infrastructure). It was decided not to go for a site allocation plan as the process was extremely difficult and expensive and any sites that the steering group identified as being suitable for development (or not) would have had to be legally defensible (which would mean that they would have had to employ lawyers to ensure that this was the case).
If the plan does not contain site allocations won’t the district council just choose the sites that it thinks are best and ignore the plan?
ELDC may allocate some future sites for housing and employment in Horncastle but given the high number of planning permissions already granted in the town the number of allocated sites is likely to be very low or nil. Any future site allocations made by ELDC will have to conform to the policies of the plan.
The district council still does not have a Local Plan, surely the Neighbourhood Plan should wait until that is developed?
If approved by the people of Horncastle at the referendum, the plan will be the most up to date plan in the district and its policies will carry significant weight when decisions are made on planning applications affecting the town. It will not make any difference whether the district council has a Local Plan in place or not.
A lot of developers have already got planning permission to build in the town. Surely the plan is too late?
All the large planning applications that have been passed in the town (eg on Langton Hill and on Mareham Road) are for outline planning permission only. This means that at some stage the developers will have to go back to ELDC to get full planning permission. If the plan is in place the developers will need to comply with it in terms of sustainable development, design principles, parking and green infrastructure.
How does the referendum work?
The referendum will take place on Thursday, April 14. The question, which is set down in national legislation and cannot be altered or added to, is: “Do you want East Lindsey District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Horncastle to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area.”
Is the Town Council holding a public meeting to promote the referendum?
No. The Neighbourhood Planning (Referendum) Regulations 2012 (section 5) prohibits the Town Council or East Lindsey District Council from using its resources to publish any promotional material other than factual information during the referendum period.This includes holding public meetings or supporting or assisting in meetings organised by others. There are severe sanctions. for inappropriate behaviour by councillors and employees so the Town Council will be taking legal advice before any responses relating to the referendum or the plan are provided so that it can ensure its councillors and employees do not fall foul of these regulations.
What happens if the Neighbourhood Development Plan passes the referendum?
ELDC has to adopt the plan and it will be used in the determination of planning applications and given weight along with the council’s Local Plan and National Planning Policy.
What happens if the Neighbourhood Development Plan fails the referendum?
If it fails the plan is effectively defunct. Horncastle Town Council would then have to decide if it wanted to produce a new plan and start the whole process again. If they did not do that the situation would stay as it currently is, with ELDC producing the policies for the area and the Town Council and public being consulted on planning applications.
How much has the plan cost and who paid?
The Steering Group was given £26,000 from the town council. The group was then able to secure a further £16,750 from national funding. £3,000 of this has not been spent.
Where can I view the plan?
The Plan can be found on the East Lindsey District Council website (www.e-lindsey.gov.uk/article/2153/Horncastle-Neighbourhood-Development-Plan) and a hard copy can be viewed at the Town Council office.