“What we know from this country and the Continent is that if you involve people from the beginning, you get better development, you get development that is more consistent with the character and that is better for everyone.” Simon Jenkins
The Localism Act 2011 gave local communities the right to shape the sustainable development of their area, through the production of a neighbourhood development plan (NDP). The regulations for this were then formalised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which came into effect on 6th April 2012. When the NPPF was launched on 27th March 2012, the key objectives were given as
- To put unprecedented power in the hands of communities to shape the places in which they live;
- To better support growth to give the next generation the chance that our generation has had to have a decent home, and to allow the jobs to be created on which our prosperity depends; and
- To ensure that the places we cherish – our countryside, towns and cities – are bequeathed to the next generation in a better condition than they are now.
Neighbourhood plans are the responsibility of local communities; either parish/town councils, where they exist, or, if there is no such council, a neighbourhood forum.
A number of places in Wharfedale and Airedale have parish councils and are looking at neighbourhood planning eg Ilkley, Otley, Horsforth, Bramhope and Carlton, and Rawdon. However, Aireborough – Guiseley, Hawksworth, and Yeadon, does not have a council, so WARD has facilitated the setting up of the independent Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum to give local people a say in how the area develops.
A neighbourhood plan, has to represent the views of a cross-section of a community. Where there is a parish council, the act of voting is deemed to be representative. With a neighbourhood forum, representation comes from involving a minimum of 21 people who live, work or do business in the area. Both a parish council and neighbourhood forum must research and consult on local spatial planning issues and ideas, with a wide variety of local interests. It then needs to produce an evidenced based local development plan to address the issues, using the ideas. In essence a local plan is about placemaking, drawing on local assets and overcoming problems in order to enhance local distinctiveness and wellbeing.
The neighbourhood plan must be in general conformity with the local development strategy. In the case of Horsforth, Otley, Rawdon, Aireborough etc, that is the Leeds local development framework (LDF). The Leeds LDF will be replacing the regional spational strategy (RSS), and the current unitary development plan (UDP) and is expected to be completed in Late 2013. Many areas like Horsforth and Aireborough, will also be affected by Bradford’s local development framework, which is proposing that 3,100 houses are built on green belt from Menston to Addingham.
Once drawn up, a neighbourhood plan goes for inspection by an independent body, and finally to a local referendum for democratic approval. If all of that is achieved, the neighbourhood development plan becomes part of the LDF, and has to be used by the Council for making planning decisions. Neighbourhood development plans do not have to be done by a community, but, without one local people have little say in how their neighbourhood should develop, and where development or what type or of what design, should go.
In the Leeds draft LDF there is currently very little detail about places such as Otley and Aireborough, but there is a requirement to build many more houses before 2028, (eg 2,300 for Aireborough and 2,000 for the Otley area). In the Leeds strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA) a great deal of green belt land has been identified as possible locations for this housing. These locations will be assessed for development in the Site Allocation Development Plan Document (SADPD) from the end of 2012. So, it is important that areas starts looking at detailed needs for sustainable development - economic, social and environmental – especially in the light of what Bradford are planning in their LDF.
If all current plans go ahead, the area in the triangle between Addingham, Otley, and Rawdon, could see nearly 8,000 more houses; when our roads, schools, trains, and services are already overstretched . WARD is advocating that this is unsustainable, without considerable infrastructure improvements, and serious attention paid to green infrastructure, and conservation of the character of local communities. Thus a neighbourhood plan is vital.
It is important to understand that development, under the Localism Bill and NPPF, does not just mean housing. Placemaking issues that can be addressed by a neighbourhood development plan include: transport, jobs, skills, housing, design standards, community facilities, shops, energy, green space, schools and education, environment, ecology and culture. Objectives of placemaking, should include, sociability, connectedness, comfort, image, history, usefulness, and vitality.
All of these placemaking objectives fit with the key consideration that runs through the new 2012 planning legislation – a presumption in favour of sustainable development. Sustainability means a balance of social, environmental and economic factors, and is best gauged through measures of wellbeing. The definition of sustainability in the NPPF is: