Last August many parishioners attended an extraordinary meeting of the Parish Council to give their views on the future of the village (see http://wwqw.bassingbourn.org/parish-council/minutes/). One suggestion made by parishioners then was for the Parish to prepare a Neighbourhood Plan. The time has now come to give that suggestion further consideration.
So, what is a Neighbourhood Plan?
It is a plan for the future of our village focussed on land use: where houses should be built and how many (and possibly also where houses should not be built), what type of houses should be built and to what types of design and where employment areas should be. It is our chance to shape the future of our village.
What area does the Neighbourhood Plan cover?
Parishes can join together to have a joint Neighbourhood Plan. Alternatively Neighbourhood Plans can cover only part of a Parish. The suggested area for our Neighbourhood Plan is the whole parish of Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth. Is this the right area for the Plan to cover?
South Cambridgeshire had prepared a Local Plan which is currently undergoing examination by a Planning Inspector. Why do we need a Neighbourhood Plan as well? Isn't that duplication?
South Cambridgeshire's Local Plan covers the whole of South Cambridgeshire and has to meet the Government's housing targets. A Neighbourhood Plan is specific to our village and what residents want for our village. But an important caveat is that a Neighbourhood Plan can't put forward any lesser development than is in the Local Plan.
If it is approved by the Planning Inspector this year, South Cambridgeshire's Local Plan will not include any additional major housing development in Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth. So if there is not to be any additional development here, why do we need a Neighbourhood Plan as well to show where housing should be built?
There is still pressure for more houses to be built, even after South Cambridgeshire's Local Plan is approved. The White Paper Fixing our Broken Housing Market puts forward proposals for building houses faster and holding developers and local authorities to account. From 2019 South Cambridgeshire District Council will be working jointly with Cambridge City Council to produce a revised Local Plan, part of which is highly probable to include building more houses. So we in Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth need to make sure that any development that has to take place in the future is of the right size and type and appropriate for our village.
What is not in the Neighbourhood Plan?
Issues such as roads, transport and schools may not be included in a Neighbourhood Plan except in so far as they affect the planning for land use. Such issues might be included in an appendix.
Who prepares a Neighbourhood Plan?
The preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan is led by the Parish Council but needs strong involvement by the community to ensure that the views represented are those of the community. Typically a Neighbourhood Plan is produced by a team of six to nine people including both Parish Councillors and residents. A village referendum is required to approve the plan before it is submitted for inspection so community involvement is vital from the start.
How long does it take?
Typically a Neighbourhood Plan takes about two years to prepare.
What does it cost?
The cost of a Neighbourhood Plan is typically around £8,000 - £12,000 although grants are available to cover much of the cost and South Cambridgeshire District Council also provides help. It also needs commitment of time and effort by the team preparing the plan.
Does it have any legal force?
Yes, once a Neighbourhood Plan is approved both developers and the District Council must take it into account. But a Neighbourhood Plan could still be challenged if the Government requirement for a 5‑year housing land supply is not met.
Your views wanted – please raise your voice
Should Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth embark on producing a Neighbourhood Plan or not? The community needs to be involved in a Neighbourhood Plan so it is only worth going ahead with it if the community is backing it. Would you be interested in joining a small team to produce a Neighbourhood Plan? The Parish Council is actively seeking your opinion in order to decide whether or not to go ahead so please do respond.