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Council ready for first neighbourhood plan referendum

Eden District Council in Cumbria is set to run the country’s first neighbourhood plan referendum on 7 March.

The Draft Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan (which covers Brough Parish and 16 surrounding parishes in East Cumbria) was the first in the country to be successfully examined under the Localism Act and is now set to be the first to be voted on by the residents involved.

Ministers have congratulated the local community and the local authority over their progress with this new form of community planning after hearing at first hand more about the Eden proposals.

These include providing more homes for local people by allowing more development on farms and conversions into affordable housing and better broadband internet connections.

Planning minister Nick Boles said: "This is an important decision for both neighbourhood planning and Eden. The area is one of the first to use neighbourhood planning to address local challenges and show other areas how they can do the same."

Communities minister Don Foster said: "The residents in Eden are the very first to vote on a neighbourhood plan and there will be many more areas following suit."

To date nearly 400 areas have applied to formally designated their neighbourhood planning areas, the first formal step in the process and 20 draft plans have been published for consultation, before being independently examined and then put to referendum.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development the High Court has considered a legal challenge from a residents group against its local council's decision to revise an application for a neighbourhood plan to exclude a former RAF base earmarked for hundreds of new homes.

Residents of Daws Hill, a community built in the former grounds of Daws Hill House in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, had earlier successfully applied to become a neighbourhood forum.

However, Wycombe District Council decided to exclude from the designated neighbourhood area the only two major sites for development that might affect them.

The residents argued in court that the council’s action defeated the whole purpose of neighbourhood planning as introduced by the Localism Act.


Roger Milne

28 February 2013