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Rodborough Common at sunset

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Pirrie Hall, Brook

/Neighbourhood Plan (NP) Background
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Neighbourhood Plan (NP)

At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Council held on the 18 June 2014, Members unanimously agreed to start a Neighbourhood Plan (‘the Plan’) for the parish.  The formation of a Steering Group was also agreed.  Whilst the Plan is led by the Parish Council, everyone can be involved, indeed this is essential.

A neighbourhood plan is a community led framework for guiding future development and growth of a local area. Neighbourhood planning is a relatively new way for communities to decide the future of the places where they live and work. The process for developing a neighbourhood plan can be a lengthy one; Witley Parish Council and a group of volunteers from the local community commenced the process for a Witley Neighbourhood Plan in April 2015.

There are 5 stages to the neighbourhood planning process.  This is a very brief overview:

Agreeing the Neighbourhood Area This means defining the area to be covered by the plan.

Preparing the Plan The draft Plan has been evolving as a result of hours of work by volunteers from the local community and some members of the Parish Council.

Independent Check: The Plan will be subject to independent examination to check, amongst other things, that it meets the right basic standards.

Community Referendum:  Parishioners living in the neighbourhood, who are registered to vote in local elections will be able to vote.  If more than 50% of people voting in the referendum support the neighbourhood plan then the local planning authority must bring it into force.

Neighbourhood Plan:  Following a successful referendum the Plan is then brought into legal force, it forms part of the statutory Development Plan for our area. Consequently, decisions on whether or not to grant planning permission in the neighbourhood area will need to be made in accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Timeline

September 2014

Designation of a neighbourhood area – an application was made to Waverley Borough Council (WBC) for the designation of a neighbourhood area.

November 2014

Designation confirmed – Designation of the neighbourhood area was confirmed on the 13th November 2014.  The WBC Executive agreed the area application from WPC for the purposes of the Witley Neighbourhood Plan.  The five day scrutiny call-in period then passed and their decision therefore stood.

September 2015

A flyer was distributed to every household with the Parish Council magazine inviting participation in the development of the WNP. Volunteers then consulted with parishioners at the village fetes and Milford Farmers Market to gain community feedback on key priorities in terms of community development for the villages of Milford, Witley, Enton, Wormley, Brook and Sandhills. Subjects discussed were Education, Environment, Energy & Conservation, Healthy Living, Housing, Retail and Employment and Transport.

July 2017

The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (NPSG) conducted a community survey on the possible housing site options for Witley Parish (further details below). The majority of the additional sites being proposed by Waverley BC for greenbelt removal in the LPP2 process were in the top 10 of most popular sites in the survey including Secretts, the 2nd most popular site in the WNP community survey.

Using this feedback, combined with further individual site analysis, the Steering Group had hoped to identify the housing sites shortlist for further consultation. By then and despite objections from the Parish Council, WBC had already proposed one strategic site (Milford Golf Course) in their draft Local Plan Part 1 (LPP1) for 180 houses (outline consent was granted for 200 homes on this site in February 2019).

At that stage the WNP process needed to propose sites for the further 300 houses that are required to be built in the Parish over the next 15 years. As the 25 site options were examined in more detail an increasing number of obstacles were identified by WBC and other statutory consultees that constrained the WNP’s ability to successfully shortlist their preferred housing sites including Secretts. Please see further information the WNP Update March 2018 – full details on housing allocation constraints.

On the basis of these active constraints and the risk of spending considerable public money without achieving a ratified Neighbourhood Plan, the WNP team and Witley Parish Council reluctantly decide to ask Waverley BC to complete the allocation of housing sites for our neighbourhood area as part of Waverley’s Local Plan Part 2 consultation process.  Waverley Borough Council (WBC) is therefore now responsible for the allocation of further sites for housing within the Parish of Witley. The total allocation for the Parish is a minimum of 480 by 2032. To date consent has been granted for about 280 so as matters stand (April 2019) sites for a further 200 houses need to be allocated.

The WNP team and Witley Parish Council still believe that having a neighbourhood plan will bring significant benefits for Witley Parish residents, even if allocation of proposed housing sites is formalised via Waverley Borough Council. We continue to provide inputs to and formally respond on any public consultation from Waverley Borough Council through the LPP2 process.

Please download the full survey results document here WNP Possible Housing Development – Community Survey Results Sept 2017

In summary:

  • Most sites did not receive any ratings from more than 30% of the survey respondents. However Secretts and Milford Golf Club sites were rated by 90% or more of the survey respondents.
  • 7 sites, including Secretts (200 new homes), were endorsed as a good choice for new housing by 30% or more of the survey respondents.
  • 4 sites including Milford Golf Club (180 new homes) and Tigbourne Farm (153) in Wormley, were considered a bad choice by 30% or more residents.
  • 15 of the 24 sites received more “good choice” than “bad choice” ratings.

A wide range of concerns were expressed about the impact of building 380 new homes (please see our WNP home page on Waverley Borough Council consultation on increasing this to 480 houses). Key concerns were:

  • Access roads and junctions that are already congested.
  • Increased traffic on the Haslemere and Petworth roads, and on Combe Lane Witley and Station Road Milford.
  • The need to enlarge the car parks at Milford and Witley railway stations.
  • Loss of green space and woodlands and encroachment on to the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

*Please note WNP2 has been withdrawn from the WNP process by the landowner

September 2019:

Regulation 14 Consultation – In May /June 2019 we undertook a six week consultation on the first draft of the Witley Neighbourhood Plan.  We had 169 responses from residents and further representations from the various statutory bodies we consulted. Links to the draft plan and supporting documents can be found at the bottom of the page.

Overall, the feedback was very positive – every policy was supported fully or in part by a high percentage of respondents, but there were some areas where we hadn’t explained ourselves clearly enough, some things we had missed and some instances where respondents’ suggestions enabled us to strengthen the policies. With the help of our planning consultants, Nexus, we have reviewed all comments and have made the appropriate changes.

One general theme was that we should make the policies more definite. Respondents wanted us to take out “where possible” and “if appropriate” and to replace “should” with “must”. Planning law prevents us from being too proscriptive; we cannot make unreasonable demands on developers, and they would appeal against them if we did. In some cases, all we are legally able to do is indicate the preference of local people and in those cases we had to leave the wording as it stands. However, there were places where we could strengthen the wording and we have done that.

Possibly the most contentious policy was ND1 – which requires Waverley Borough Council (WBC) to consider Secretts as a possible development site. We believe that a development within the village has benefits for new and existing residents. It was pleasing to see that 85% of you supported this fully or with some reservations. Just to clarify one misunderstanding that was apparent from several responses – a housing development at Secretts would not mean the loss of the farm shop or the other retail units and businesses.

An example of a policy which was not explained clearly, was the wording in policy ND2 about extending homes. It has long been a concern of the Parish Council that so many smaller properties are extended beyond recognition, often by property developers, into much larger homes, thus reducing the availability of smaller homes and changing the character of our streets. Policy ND2 was intended to make that more difficult. It was not intended to prevent extensions to all properties, which is how it came across. That policy has been reworded.

Policy A1, about the new healthcare hub, generated a lot of responses. The general feeling was positive, although many people pointed out that it was difficult to comment without knowing where it would be built. That unfortunately is a decision that cannot be made until WBC have decided where new housing will be sited, because the location of the healthcare hub will probably be tied in with that.

Although many respondents expressed strong concerns about road safety, traffic noise and congestion we cannot incorporate those suggestions into the plan, much as we would have liked to. We cannot widen roads. We cannot reduce the number of lorries. We cannot reduce the speed limit below 30mph on A roads. There are only two things we can do – the first is to lobby Surrey County Council’s Highways department to draw their attention to local problems and the second is to introduce measures to help improve road safety, such as pedestrian crossings, using money contributed by developers.

It’s not all about planning. Although most of the policies in the plan are intended to be taken on board by developers when they are designing new developments, there are some that will direct the Parish Council in its future decisions about the local environment, such as policies on trees and biodiversity.

Once we have an adopted Neighbourhood Plan we will receive 25% of the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) that is paid on new homes, which can be spent on improving local facilities.

Page last modified on Dec 11, 2019