NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN FOR COCKERMOUTH – PROPOSED COMMUNITY FORUM
You will be aware that Cockermouth Town Council have decided not to proceed with the development of a Neighbourhood Plan for the town. Also, despite a significant community presence and questioning at the annual Parish Council meeting, the Council are not prepared to review this decision for at least another 6 months.
Cockermouth & District Civic Trust consider that this decision is ill-advised and that a well designed Neighbourhood Plan could have significant benefit for the future development of Cockermouth and would allow the community to have more of an influence on how our town develops both for ourselves and future generations. The view has been expressed that all of the proposed developments have now been approved and so there is no point. We believe that it is very naive to think that there will not be future proposals for major developments. Also, we believe that unsupported evidence has been used to justify the Council decision. For example, 'there is no evidence of community support'. Also that the cost will be excessive at £50,000, whereas 'Locality' has published a series of case studies on how much groups have spent on producing their plan with the average cost being around £13,000.
The Civic Trust feels that the concept of a Neighbourhood Plan for Cockermouth must not be lost and we are therefore proposing to establish a 'Community Forum' with the objective of producing a scoping document for the production of a Neighbourhood Plan covering Cockermouth, and potentially neighbouring parishes. The intention would be then to present this document back to the Town Council & any other appropriate parish council to allow them to reconsider their decision based on informed evidence. This Community Forum will not be legally empowered to produce a Neighbourhood Plan itself, this will still need the agreement of the Town Council for Cockermouth & other parishes as appropriate..
It is our intention to hold an opening meeting for this Community Forum sometime in July, date and venue to be decided. The objective of this meeting will be to agree the objective and membership of the Community Forum. The Civic Trust will chair and secretary this opening meeting. It will be the responsibility of the Community Forum itself to agree its own management arrangements but the Civic Trust are prepared to provide a 'chair'.
I have provided draft terms of reference for the Community Forum as an appendix 1 to this letter.
I am writing to you as a representative of the Chamber of Trade. Could you please inform your members of our intentions and let me know in writing who would like to attend the opening meeting and potentially to be a member of the Community Forum.
Could you please send your reply(s) to the Civic Trust email address as follows:
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to my home address if you prefer.
Please note that any letters of support to the Civic Trust for the concept of the Cockermouth Neighbourhood Plan would be very helpful, irrespective of whether people wish to be involved in the Community Forum.
In Appendix 2, I have provided an extract from the government advice on Neighbourhood Planning for additional information.
APPENDIX 1 - SCOPING PROJECT FOR A COCKERMOUTH NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
To establish a project group of community volunteers, including individuals as well as representation from Town/Parish Councillors, Civic Trust, SusCo and Chamber of Trade, along with expert advice, to produce a scoping document for the production of a Neighbourhood Plan covering the town of Cockermouth and potentially neighbouring parishes such as Papcastle.
In doing so, the group will,
· Take cognisance of established neighbourhood plans for towns of similar size & nature, e.g. Morpeth
· Seek expert advice & support as necessary
· Assess the level of public support for a Neighbourhood Plan
· Determine the level of support available from Allerdale BC, both for this scoping project and for the final plan.
· Determine the appropriate area of significance, e.g. Cockermouth and Papcastle?
· Scope out the essential features desired to be included in the final Neighbourhood Plan
· Ensure consistency with Allerdale Local Plan
· Determine a broad cost estimate for the production of the final plan, including cost elements
· Produce a scoping report that can be considered by Cockermouth Town Council (and neighbouring parish council(s) such as Papcastle Parish council) in November 2016 or as soon as reasonably achievable after this date.
Chairman, Cockermouth Civic Trust
APPENDIX 2 – EXTRACT FROM PLANNING PRACTICE GUIDANCE
What is neighbourhood planning?
Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead. Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community where the ambition of the neighbourhood is aligned with the strategic needs and priorities of the wider local area.
What can communities use neighbourhood planning for?
Local communities can choose to:
· set planning policies through a neighbourhood plan that is used in determining planning applications.
· grant planning permission through Neighbourhood Development Orders and Community Right to Build Orders for specific development which complies with the order.
Neighbourhood planning is not a legal requirement but a right which communities in England can choose to use. Communities may decide that they could achieve the outcomes they want to see through other planning routes, such as incorporating their proposals for the neighbourhood into the Local Plan, or through other planning mechanisms such as Local Development Orders and supplementary planning documents or through pre-application consultation on development proposals. Communities and local planning authorities should discuss the different choices communities have to achieving their ambitions for their neighbourhood
What is the role of a parish or town council in neighbourhood planning?
In a designated neighbourhood area which contains all or part of the administrative area of a town or parish council, the town or parish council is responsible for neighbourhood planning.
Where a parish or town council chooses to produce a neighbourhood plan or Order it should work with other members of the community who are interested in, or affected by, the neighbourhood planning proposals to allow them to play an active role in preparing a neighbourhood plan or Order.
The relationship between any group and the formal functions of the town or parish council should be transparent to the wider public. A parish or town council may choose to establish an advisory committee or sub-committee and appoint local people (who need not be parish councillors) to those bodies. Members of such committees or sub-committees would have voting rights. The terms of reference for a steering group or other body should be published and the minutes of meetings made available to the public.