In the news: securing referendum approval for a neighbourhood plan

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 23 Jul 2014


A referendum on a neighbourhood plan for Winslow in Buckinghamshire, which allocates five sites for 455 new homes up to 2031, was passed in a referendum last week.

Neil Homer is planning director of economic development consultancy rCOH which worked on developing the neighbourhood plan.

Q What has been your personal involvement in this?

A I had two main roles: first was to author most of the documentation. This involved translating lay-person speak into planning speak. The second was to advise the town council on what they could do with the plan and what they couldn't.

Q What have been the most important bits of work that you have had to do on this?

A There's no up-to-date local plan so one of the most important aspects was positioning the neighbourhood plan to be seen to be positive about development but also acceptable to the local community. It requires striking a balance between often competing objectives and goes to the heart of good old fashioned town and country planning.

Q What have been the biggest challenges that this has presented to you, and how did you deal with them? 

A The biggest challenge was gaining a common understanding between local communities and planning authorities of the implications of having to win a referendum. This shapes the entire process and makes them very different to local plans. We tried to overcome this by encouraging the client to understand what their local communities were saying about site preferences, for example, and by reminding the planning authority to be proportionate in evidence gathering and reporting.