In response to recent comments that were made public, the Steering Group's statement follows:
Recent communications shared on the Astwood and Hardmead WhatsApp group made reference to the Neighbourhood plan. In particular it referred to two issues.
1. An error made in delivery of the "Validation of Land Letters"
2. 18 completed questionnaires for Hardmead had been misplaced.
Analysis which took place during September 2019 identified that a small number of houses had been omitted from receiving a 'Validation Of Land" letter, which occurred without consultation or consensus of the NHP committee. This letter's purpose was purely to check with the owner that the property boundary identified was correct.
As a result of identifying this issue, the NHP committee agreed that the next step in the process, a
'Call for Land' letter, would be delivered in October by recorded mail. By delivering through Recorded Delivery the committee ensured that all landowners with viable development land available received a letter and that there was an audit trail to evidence the fact.
The second issue was that 18 completed questionnaires from Hardmead had been misplaced and data from those 18 houses was not captured in the initial analysis of the questionnaires. A due diligence check showed the discrepancy and those 18 households were reissued with the questionnaire and a second analysis of the questionnaires was completed in order to incorporate the new data.
Both issues were identified and resolved promptly by the NHP committee, with full due diligence performed to secure the validity of the NHP process. These corrective measures are included in NHP minutes and all members of the committee are confident that data from all questionnaires submitted by residents has been included in the final results.
Please be assured that the NHP team have followed the process set out by the governing body and are committed to producing an accurate, informed and fair plan which is based wholly on data and evidence collected from the residents and landowners of the Parish
If you have any questions or concerns at any time regarding the plan please reach out to the NHP committee via email: NHPastwoodHardmead@gmail.com The Astwood and Hardmead NHP Steering Committee.
The Astwood and Hardmead Neighbourhood Plan is rapidly approaching the final phase of input and management by the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee; once that phase has been completed progress of the Plan is subject to Government Process and Milton Keynes Council management. The document attached below provides a brief outline of the process. Please be aware that the dates outlined in the attachment are aspirational, based on an understanding of the process and the expected duration of each phase. It is important to also note that, due to the Pandemic, the UK Government has stated that the Referendum process will not start for any draft Neighbourhood Plans until the 6th May 2021 at the very earliest. It is also essential to note that this date may yet be further revised by the UK Government in response to strengthening Covid-19 concerns
Background ~ What is, and why a Neighbourhood Plan?
A Neighbourhood Plan (NHP) is our chance to have a say in the future of our parish. It is a powerful tool for shaping the development and growth of a local area. Until the Localism Act in 2011, it was almost impossible for local communities such as ours to have a say in the planning matters that shape the place where we live. The Localism Act gives local communities the opportunity to develop a shared vision for their Neighbour Area and to shape the development and growth of their local area. Neighbourhood Plans are developed from within the community, and provided they achieve necessary legislative milestones, they become “made” and are used by the Local Planning Authority in determining planning applications and making policy. Neighbourhood Plans have to be prepared in accordance with the Local Planning Authority’s adopted
Local Development Plan, in this case the Milton Keynes Plan:MK. This plan has been adopted by the Government Inspector and covers Housing and development needs in the Milton Keynes and surrounding areas through to 2031 – the Plan can be obtained by clicking here.
Plans also have to follow the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (NPPF) which sets out the structure for the planning of sustainable development. Plan:MK is the strategic plan for Milton Keynes and provides both generic and place-based policies to guide development. Plan:MK provides the local context for the neighbourhood plan whose policies and proposals must be in general conformity with its policies. The Neighbourhood Plan offers the specific, place-based detail to show the type of development that local people would like to see, and shows the appropriate locations for this. In October 2018 a group of volunteers from the Parish (see below) came together to develop a joint Astwood and Hardmead Neighbourhood Plan in response to guidance and recommendation from Milton Keynes Planning department; the department is mindful of the perception of imposed planning upon rural areas, and sought to work in consultation with rural communities regarding development, rather than delivering policy-based expansion without consideration of local needs or sensitivities.
What stage is the Astwood & Hardmead Neighbourhood Plan at?
Since the initial Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee meeting in late 2018 we have completed many activities which include, but are not limited to:
A drop-in workshop was held in Astwood Village Hall in March 2019. The workshop was run to allow the community to engage with the NHP committee and understand the process, its objectives and timescales. The workshop was publicised through SCAN, targeted leaflet drops at each parishioner’s home and the Astwood & Hardmead WhatsApp group.
In April 2019 a parish-wide questionnaire, comprising 15 questions was issued to obtain feedback and guidance on a range of aspects of the parish in order to inform the policies which would be incorporated in the plan. This questionnaire was reissued in September 2019 to the residents of Hardmead, whose responses had not been received, and to include any households in Astwood who had not submitted a response to the April questionnaire event.
A "call for sites" exercise was conducted in October 2019, through which any landowners with plots within the development boundary could formally promote those plots for consideration for development through the Plan. These sites were then shared with the parish at a drop-in session in the Astwood Village Hall in November 2019, and feedback / recommendations were sought from the parishioners at this event
With the identification of potential development plots in the parish the committee put together its recommendations in-line with the guidance derived from the Parish questionnaire and the November feedback session. These recommendations were shared with the Parish at a session in the Village Hall on Sunday 15th March 2020.
Each of the plots presented by landowners for development consideration has been assessed - these assessments are available at the foot of this page.
The diagram below is an outline of the recommended process for volunteer organisations to develop and submit Neighbourhood Plans; the sections overlaid are stages which, at January 2021, have been completed. The overall process was estimated to take approx. 18 months with an anticipated completion by the end of Quarter 2 2020 / early in Q3 2020; due to the Coronavirus pandemic, however, it is likely that the process will not be completed until late Summer 2021.
The Plan has now exited the Consultation Phase. The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group have approved a final draft for submission to Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for their review and Strategic Environmental Assessment Screening (SEA) (which is an EU obligation on MKC). This is the Regulation 16 phase of the process.
Once MKC have completed their review and the outcome of the SEA is approved a series of milestones apply to the Plan. These milestones are not negotiable, and the interval between each stage is mandated by the Government's Neighbourhood Plan process. A document outlining these milestones, with aspirational dates and brief guidance has been attached here.
Please find below a range of links and references for your assistance should you wish to know more about Neighourhood Plans, Local Plans or the processes and activities underpinning either.
The Neighbourhood Plan regulations were published in 2012, and can be found on the Government's website.
The Government have also published additional information about what neighbourhood planning is.
There are also number of organisations that can give advice to communities considering carrying out a neighbourhood plan.
Please see a selection of these organisations below:
Localities Supporting Communities and Neighbourhoods in Planning Programme helps local groups develop neighbourhood plans.
Planning Aid England (PAE) helps communities through the key stages of the Neighbourhood Planning process under the Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning 2013-15 initiative. PAE works directly with neighbourhood planning groups to provide support, advice and professional input to the plans being prepared by those communities. Visit RTPI - neighbourhood planning
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) is the national umbrella body of the Rural Community Action Network (RCAN), which operates at national, regional and local level in support of rural communities across the country.
A national toolkit produced by ACRE, is used by RCAN practitioners to guide community groups through the LEAD process. Nine steps are outlined, each providing practical advice and resources that help to make the production of any plan a manageable endeavour. Visit ACRE - community led planning
NHP volunteer Steering Committee
The attached PDFs are assessments of the plots which were put forward by landowners in the parish.
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