In the News: steering a neighbourhood plan to referendum

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 23 Jul 2014

Winslow, BucksA housebuilder this week failed in its legal bid to block a neighbourhood plan referendum taking place in the Buckinghamshire town of Winslow.

Gladman Developments was refused permission by the High Court for an injunction to prevent a vote on the town's neighbourhood plan.

The plan allocates five sites for 455 new homes up to 2031, more than five hectares of employment land and educational and community facilities.

Gladman is involved in two outstanding planning appeals on land included in the Winslow neighbourhood plan area but outside the sites allocated in the document.

The firm is also seeking permission for a judicial review to overturn Aylesbury Vale District Council’s decision to allow the plan to proceed to referendum.

Neil Homer is planning director of economic development consultancy rCOH, which helped draw up 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 – the plan, basic conditions' statement and the SEA report. 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.