Posted by: westlancashirerecord | December 29, 2016

Localism Reality?

Did the Localism Act 2011 deliver real neighbourhood planning power into your hands? As one of the most important powers the Act “brought” into being, what planning powers have you now got? There was a “Duty to Co-operate”…to “ensure that the Green Belt continues to be protected”. Was YOUR green belt protected?

A London Conservative Councillor Andrew Wood wrote in September about “Why you should start a Neighbourhood Plan. That is provided nobody else in your local area has already done, so you may need to get your skates on, it is a policy that 2,000 groups across the country have already started. Put simply, it is a fantastic way to engage with local people in a way that is likely to engage many more people than almost anything else you are likely to do. Planning is about where you live or work, what it will look like, how it develops and the future. It is one of the few subjects that can bring people together from across the community”.

And he went on “One of the most important, but least appreciated, government policies of the last five years has been the localism agenda initiated by the Localism Act of 2011, delivering real power into local people’s hands. However, it is a policy that we as a Party do not talk enough about and it rarely intrudes into the national press. Neighbourhood Planning is one the most important of the new powers. It can, if used imaginatively and with ambition, have a material impact on your local area”.

In Aughton we residents looked at this new power and decided to raise it with the staunchly Conservative Aughton Parish Council apc1. After all, surely this new material impact on our local area would be welcome? But it was not to be, as the dark forces worked against it, shown by these minutes below.

APC Minutes 9 December 2013 Councillor [Wally] Westley spoke [by invitation, he being a resident of Halsall and having no right to speak at the APC] briefly on the adoption of the West Lancashire Local Plan (2012-2027) DPD, the meeting held at the Borough Council offices with the Aughton Borough Ward Councillors and representatives from ARG 2012 to discuss the WLBC Local Plan, mainly the Parrs Lane Plan B site, and Neighbourhood Planning. Mr Colin Atkinson from ARG 2012 raised the issues of ‘Neighbourhood Planning’ and ‘Better Communication’ and the Chairman agreed to give consideration to both items at the next monthly meeting on 13 January 2014.

APC Minutes 13 January 2014 10199 NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING – after discussion, it was AGREED to set up a Working Group to include the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and 2 other councillors to consider the item further and report back to the full council at a future meeting. 10200 COMMUNICATION – after discussion, it was AGREED to include this item for consideration by the Working Group at Para.10199 above.

APC Minutes 10 February 2014 Mr Colin Atkinson, Chairman of ARG 2012, asked if the Working Group (WG) had met yet in respect of Neighbourhood Planning. The Chairman said the WG meeting had not been held due to members’ other commitments [what, for a whole month?] but a meeting was planned over the coming months when more information was available.

APC Minutes 10 March 2014 Mr Atkinson of Long Lane asked if there had been any progress in the setting up of a PC working group in respect of Neighbourhood Planning. The Chairman said the matter was progressing slowly with the gathering of information from WLBC, CPRE, etc. It was clear that Neighbourhood Planning could not conflict with the adopted Local Plan Policies, could not be used to prevent development that is included in the Local Plan and could promote more development than is set out in the Local Plan. The compilation of a Neighbourhood Plan would involve a great deal of time and effort. The item would be returned to the Agenda once a recommendation from the Working Group had been received.

APC Minutes 14 April 2014 aughton14april Mr Colin Atkinson of ARG 2012 raised the issue of the Parish Council Working Group to consider Neighbourhood Planning and the proposed review of the Aughton Parish Plan; the publication of an ‘In Touch’ leaflet which was being distributed around the Parish; and gave his views on the West Lancashire Local Plan Annual Monitoring Report 2013. The Chairman advised that the PC Working Group held its first meeting in April [since February!]. As previously notified, recommendations on all matters discussed by the Working Group would be returned to the Agenda once finalised. On the ‘In Touch’ leaflet, Aughton Parish Council had nothing to do with the content or production of this leaflet and this concluded the matter.

APC Minutes 9 June 2014 10288 NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN, AUGHTON’S PARISH PLAN 2010, COMMUNICATION – the Chairman gave the Working Group’s recommendations on all three matters: a) Neighbourhood Plan (NP) – consideration had been given to the aims, process and costs – the main aim of a NP was to expand and develop the Parish; a NP should not conflict with the strategic policies in the adopted Local Plan or be used to prevent development that was included in the Local Plan. Recommendation – as there was a robust adopted West Lancashire Local Plan in place, the Working Group could see no benefits in preparing a NP.

And there we were, the dark decision, shafted out of this Tory Government inspired Neighbourhood Planning dream by a Tory dominated Aughton Parish Council working group of just 4 members because the Tory Borough Council gave us what is laughingly called a “robust Local Plan” which was rather more frail and weak, just as the developers wanted, and that is “Localism reality” in Aughton and probably everywhere else in West Lancashire?

Cllr Andrew Wood ended by saying “Parliament is about to consider the new Neighbourhood Planning Bill which will further improve the process”. Really?

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