Harrietsham Parish Council
A Neighbourhood Plan is a local planning document that sets out where development should go and defines local policies that developers should adhere to. Once it has been to referendum and adopted it becomes a statutory document and will be used by local planning authorities (in our case Maidstone) to help decide planning applications. A Neighbourhood Plan must be in general conformity with any Local Plan that exists for Maidstone.
A Neighbourhood Plan cannot be used to prevent development. It can be used to show where a local community supports development and the priority infrastructure projects that should be funded as a result of development.
The Parish Council started to develop a Neighbourhood Plan in 2012, with extensive input from residents, landowners, developers and other organisations. The Neighbourhood Plan had its first public consultation in November/December 2013, and was submitted to Maidstone in June 2014 for its second public consultation. However, the draft Neighbourhood Plan was controversial and provoked strong opposition within the village. Procedural issues and protracted discussions about the environmental impact of the plan meant that it did not progress to this second public consultation.
In May 2015, a new Parish Council was elected, that was opposed to the scale of development set out in the draft Neighbourhood Plan. At the Council meeting of May 2015 it was resolved to withdraw the draft Neighbourhood Plan from Maidstone.
A lot has changed since 2012 when the Neighbourhood Plan was started. Three of the major sites proposed for housing have already been approved by the Maidstone Planning Committee – so these are no longer proposals but approved development. What has been approved also differs from what was set out in the plan.
The two remaining sites in the Harrietsham Neighbourhood Plan are not included in the Maidstone draft Local Plan, and therefore do not need to be offered up for development. Planning Applications on both these sites have either been Refused by Maidstone, or Withdrawn by the Applicants when too many obstacles remained.
The Council resolved in June 2015 to exclude these two sites from our Neighbourhood Plan, so that our plan would conform with MBC’s housing allocations.
The current draft Neighbourhood Plan therefore needs a complete review and re-writing to take into account all that has changed in the last three years.
In July 2015 the Council resolved to form a Neighbourhood Plan Working Group, made up of Councillors and volunteers from the community. This group will make recommendations to Council on how to progress the new Neighbourhood Plan, but first, they will be asked to recommend whether pursuing a Neighbourhood Plan is still worthwhile. Even with an approved, adopted Neighbourhood Plan there are no guarantees that Maidstone will not approve further planning applications and it is extremely time consuming and costly to produce a good Neighbourhood Plan. This has to be considered carefully before further funds and efforts are committed to this project.