Under the Localism Act 2011 it’s now possible for local communities to develop and implement a neighbourhood plan introducing planning guidelines and requirements for their communities. After speaking to local residents it seems clear that getting a neighbourhood plan for Onslow would be the best way of dealing with multiple problems which currently slip through the cracks.
For example, in Ashenden and other estates it’s clear that there’s a problem with family homes being bought up and converted into houses of multiple occupancy with families being slowly priced out of the area, damaging the local community. Yet in other parts of the country where they’d had this problem neighbourhood plans have introduced policies to ensure balanced communities, such as Exeter.
Neighbourhood plans can also cover things like protecting green and community spaces, identifying ways in which the local area can be improved and which kind of developments should go where.
It’s not possible for a neighbourhood plan to contradict the council’s own Local Plan but it does provide a way for a community to decide what the local planning priorities are in detail.
The first step on the road to a Neighbourhood Plan is the creation of a representative Neighbourhood Forum and the last step is a binding local referendum on the proposed Neighbourhood Plan with lots of consultation, participation and drafting in between.
Unfortunately, with Guildford council’s decision to delay the finalisation of the Local Plan until after the general election it seems unlikely that any Neighbourhood Plan could be drawn up until the Local Plan’s been published. But that’s no reason that work on the preliminary step of setting up a Neighbourhood Forum couldn’t start before then.
So, if I’m elected next May I’ll do all I can to make sure that we get a Neighbourhood Plan for Onslow Ward. And between now and then I’ll be speaking to local residents about the idea to find people interested in forming a Neighbourhood Forum as a starting point. After all, something like this really needs to be led by members of the community and not just by politicians.