In the absence of SCAN being published in August, the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee would like to share an update with you regarding the Plan.
The Plan remains at independent examination stage; unfortunately, due to personal circumstances, the examiner has not been able to complete their assessment of the Plan, and their current estimate for completion is late August / early September.
Until the examiner's report is issued, it is not possible to assess whether any further work is required against the Plan, or whether it can proceed to Referendum (Regulation 18). If the path to Referendum is clear, we anticipate that Referendum will be held around October 2021.
We will, of course, share further updates with the parish as appropriate.
Regulation 18 (Publication of the examiner’s report and plan proposal decisions)
Following the examination, the independent examiner will issue a report to Milton Keynes Council and the Astwood & Hardmead Neighbourhood Steering Group. If the Plan meets the Basic Conditions, the examiner will recommend that the Plan proceeds to the referendum stage. If modifications are required in advance, these will be undertaken by Milton Keynes Council who must publicise details on their website.
What does referendum mean?
Milton Keynes Council will arrange for the referendum to take place. All persons on the electoral register will be entitled to vote in the referendum.
The referendum question that will be asked will be as follows:
Do you want Milton Keynes Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Astwood & Hardmead to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?
For the referendum to be successful, the majority (in excess of 50%) of the votes cast on the day must be in favour of the Plan.
Regulation 19 (Decision on a plan proposal)
As soon as possible after the referendum, the decision will be made by Milton Keynes Council to make (approve and adopt) the Plan. The Plan will then come into force as part of the development plan for the area alongside the Local Plan. Milton Keynes Council and planning Inspectors considering planning applications or appeals must make their decisions in accordance with the policies of the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
The Astwood and Hardmead Neighbourhood Plan is currently undergoing independent examination to ensure that the Plan, and its policies, meet the Basic Conditions required of a Plan. Unless independent examination identifies a need to revise / update the Plan, the Parish Steering Group have no further input into the Plan. From this stage forward 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.
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 activities have been undertaken since the process started?
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.
WHAT STAGE IS THE PLAN CURRENTLY AT?
The diagram below is an outline of the recommended process for volunteer organisations to develop and submit Neighbourhood Plans; the sections crossed out are stages which, at 21st May 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.
On 26th May 2021 the Plan will exit Regulation 16 (final Public Review). It will then be scrutinised by an independent examiner (appointed by Milton Keynes Council) to assess its alignment to Plan Basic Conditions in addition to review of public comment. If no amendments are required the examiner will report on the Plan, with the intention of passing to Referendum (Parish vote).
The Referendum date will be set by Milton Keynes Council, and will be communicated to the parish by the NH Plan Steering Committee.
A document outlining the remaining plan stages, 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.
The attached PDFs are minutes from the Astwood and Hardmead Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group meetings.
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