This spring Haslemere Town Council is launching a comprehensive public consultation on our first Neighbourhood Plan, to be held over eight weeks, from 2nd March to 27th April 2020. The process aims to ensure that all those (16+) who live or work in the area are given the opportunity to directly influence the Plan’s Vision for the future of the town and its surroundings. Responses will play a vital role in helping shape future planning decisions at local and regional level.
The consultation marks a special point for the 80+ volunteers responsible for the Plan’s inception as it represents a handover of responsibility from community advocacy group Haslemere Vision, to Haslemere Town Council. Whilst The Vision will continue to provide stewardship and advice, Town Councillors are taking the reins to steer the Plan to completion. Mayor John Robini, who is personally chairing the working party taking the Plan forward says, “our aim is a Plan that will help deliver the long-term goals of a balanced and vibrant neighbourhood”.
The Plan has been six years in the making, including a lengthy process of detailed research and widespread consultation to ascertain the priorities and needs of the community, and it identifies the following key objectives:
- To encourage development that meets Haslemere’s housing needs whilst protecting the character of the area. In particular to encourage development of more homes for young people, local workers and homes suitable for downsizers.
- To protect and enrich our green spaces and the natural environment that surrounds us.
- To re-balance road use, limiting the adverse impact of motor vehicles by improving provision for off-street parking and/or improving facilities for alternative forms of transport.
- To protect existing employment and to encourage the development of a more diverse range of local employment opportunities to create an increasingly vibrant and sustainable community.
A key aim of the Plan is to ensure that delivery of housing allocations proposed in Waverley Borough Council’s Local Plan takes these objectives into account. The policies within the Plan require future developments to make the best possible use of Haslemere’s scarce land resources and protect the town’s rural character, setting and environment.
Exactly how such matters will be prioritised, the nature of future development and how it is to be decided is a vital aspect of the public consultation and why it is especially important for residents to participate. Collation of public views, both supportive and negative, will inform amendments or changes to the draft Plan. Public participation is crucial to ensure that future planning reflects and directly represents the majority of the wishes and preferences of Haslemere residents.
The adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan also has important strategic funding implications. Presently, Waverley Borough Council places a Community Infrastructure Levy on all developments, of which Haslemere Council currently receives 15% (capped in the case of large developments). With the adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan, more responsibility for decision-making will devolve to Haslemere Council and the amount of Infrastructure Levy it receives will rise to 25%, with no cap. With better funding, the area will have more options to undertake exciting new projects or partner with Borough and County Councils to deliver larger schemes.
The Neighbourhood Plan will be available in full (and in a digestible summary) from 2nd March at www.haslemeretc.org/neighbourhood-plan together with an online survey that will collate public responses. Physical copies of it will be available at Haslemere Library, Haslemere Town Hall, Grayswood All Saints Church, Haslemere Museum, the Station Information Hub, Haslewey, the Hindhead Cookie Bar and the Hub in Beacon Hill. Hard copies of the survey can also be collected from these locations, but should be returned to the Town Council offices.
In addition, all are welcome to view the Plan, ask questions and complete surveys at the following public drop-in events:
- The Town Hall: 7th March 11am-3pm
- Train Station Hub: 16th March 4.30pm-7.30pm
- Haslewey: 26th March 12pm-4pm and 6pm-8pm
- Hindhead British Legion: 31st March 3.30pm-8pm
- Grayswood Club: 8th April 10.30am-12pm
Following this consultation process, the Plan will be submitted to WBC who will invite further comment before passing it to an independent examiner who will hopefully approve it for referendum. If a simple majority of residents vote YES at referendum, the policies within the Plan will have legal effect and will apply to all planning applications in the area. Both Haslemere Town Council and Waverley Borough Council will be obliged to use them as they evaluate proposals in key areas of housing, land use, transportation and in the conservation and enhancement of Haslemere’s unique rural character and environment.
Completing the Plan has been a great achievement and the Town Council wishes to thank all those volunteers who have played their part in its preparation. Having now adopted the Plan, Haslemere Town Council are proud to commend it to all who live and work in the area and urge all to respond to the consultation at www.haslemeretc.org/neighbourhood-plan when it opens on the 2nd March 2020.