- What is the Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan and why should I care?
Neighbourhood Plans give communities the power to develop a shared vision for their Neighbourhood and to shape the development and growth of their local area. The Haslemere Neighbourhood Plan sets out policies for housing, the environment, access and transport and the economy. If it is approved by a majority at referendum, it will be used by the local Planning Authority to determine planning applications within the area.
- What’s the bottom line – how many houses, where and when?
New housing numbers are set by central government not by Neighbourhood Plans, however the government has given communities the opportunity to influence where those new homes are located and some influence over the type and mix of housing.
Local knowledge can help enormously in this regard. In the Haslemere area for example, developers tend to focus on delivering large family homes popular with London buyers, however the area over indexes in this type of home. There is a short supply of homes for local workers who tend to move away when they start families – in the majority driven by a shortage of affordable ‘starter’ family homes with 2 & 3-beds. This has knock-on effects on the vibrancy of the area; if non-London based workers and those in retail, amenities and service sector are not able to live in the area, it makes recruitment more difficult and increases costs.
The Neighbourhood Plan supports development of homes that meet a wide range of local priorities. It also sets out official settlement boundaries, excluding land that is ‘greenfield’ and the various types of land with special environmental protections such as Greenbelt, AONB, AGLV etc.
The Neighbourhood Plan aims to balance appropriate development within the boundaries, encouraging better use of previously developed land with higher densities, versus building out into the countryside. Whilst the Neighbourhood Plan sets out the principles of locating homes, Waverley Borough Council identifies and allocates specific sites for development in the Local Plan Part 2.
- Do we actually need all these homes? Who says so?
Housing need was assessed by independent consultants commissioned by Waverley Borough Council, based on guidance set out at National level. The Neighbourhood Plan does not set the number of houses to be built. The housing need assessment is available on Haslemere Town Council’s website under the evidence base for the Neighbourhood Plan. It is entitled ‘West Surrey Strategic Housing Market Assessment Waverley Addendum Dec 2015’.
- What about infrastructure – where are we going to find the water, school places and GPs to accommodate all these extra people?
The supply of infrastructure comes under Surrey County Council for schools and the Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group for health. Information on the land supply for infrastructure can be found on pages 7 & 8 of the Neighbourhood Plan (https://haslemeretc.org/neighbourhood-plan/) together with a brief assessment of areas that should be prioritised. The Neighbourhood Plan does set a policy that new housing applications should demonstrate satisfactory infrastructure provision (reference the Plan document – policy H6) and a policy on ensuring development proposals incorporate appropriate water and sewage capacity facilities (reference policy H8).
- Will anybody listen – won’t the developers just get their way anyway?
Adopted Neighbourhood Plans are a tool that Local Planning Authorities use in deciding planning applications and at planning Appeals, so yes developers will take note and act upon the content of the Neighbourhood Plan. The Plan is also a useful tool for Borough Councillors to identify community wishes and enable them to be easily addressed.
Responsibility for implementation of Neighbourhood Plan policies is assigned in the Monitoring section of the document. In the majority it will be the responsibility of Planning Officers and the Planning Committee at Haslemere Town Council and Waverley Borough Council. There is a role for residents and community groups to monitor planning applications and developments and, where necessary, submit letters of support or objections if proposals fail to meet the Neighbourhood Plan policies.
- This all started a decade ago didn’t it? Why has it taken so long?
The legislation that gave communities the right to create a Neighbourhood Plan was laid down in the Locality Act of 2011. Various community meetings to decide whether to take advantage of our new rights followed, before Haslemere Vision was convened in 2013 and a memorandum of understanding with Haslemere Town Council agreed. Two major consultations were organized in 2014 and 2016. Then followed a long period of researching, evidence gathering and writing polices, followed by a further major consultation March-May 2020, led by Haslemere Town Council. Since then the Plan has been put out for a 6 week consultation by WBC (so that the whole Borough has a chance to comment) and has been examined by an independent Planning Inspector. It has been a long and thorough journey, rooted in community consultation and in step with development of plans at different tiers of government.
- It’s all been done by volunteers hasn’t it? With all due respect, how do we know this is all legal?
Legislation governing production of a Neighbourhood Plan contains checks, balances and oversight to ensure policies reflect a majority view. Professional input and oversight has been provided at key points in the process and The document has been checked for legal compliance or ‘soundness’ by an independent Planning Inspector and by the Local Authority whose duty it will be to implement the policies. Neighbourhood Plans have and are being prepared around the country in a similar manner to enable local people to have a greater say in development within their communities.
- What about the climate – are all these houses good for the environment?
Neighbourhood Plans cannot impose any further layers of building regulations over and above National standards as prescribed by central government and we must look to these for regulations for good environmental practice. Whilst houses may not be good for the environment, there are environmental policies in the Plan. Protection of trees woodland and hedgerows (reference H9) dark skies (H10) local green spaces and greenfingers (H11) as well as protection for the Haslemere Ecological Network (H12) which has been established as part of the work on the Neighbourhood Plan.
- Great, so where do I cast my vote?
Residents within the Plan area (which includes the settlements of Beacon Hill, Critchmere, Grayswood, Haslemere, Hindhead and Shottermill) are eligible to vote in the referendum on Thurs 7th October.
These residents will have received a poll card through the post with details of where they can cast their vote and the Town Council and Haslemere Vision will be sending out prompts to remind residents to vote on the day.
We would strongly encourage all residents to come out and have their say on the 7th and should anyone wish to contribute to the issues and opportunities highlighted by the Plan, please get in contact with email@example.com.