As part of its housing strategy, Herefordshire Council agreed policies which could see new housing developments in Michaelchurch Escley and Vowchurch and in Lower Maes-coed. With the support of local residents, the Parish Council decided to produce a neighbourhood development plan which reflected local views about how such developments should take place in the coming years.
Work to produce the neighbourhood plan was led by a Steering Group of local people reporting to the Parish Council. We held public meetings during 2014 and 2015 at which people identified different options for the kind of developments that might take place. We also issued a questionnaire which asked for people’s views about the kind of developments that might take place.
We produced a draft neighbourhood plan in 2016 setting out policies to be used in assessing future planning applications. These polices were based on the views expressed by local people during the various consultations referred to above. With the support of Herefordshire Council this draft plan was issued for wider public consultation in April and May 2016.
The plan was accompanied by maps showing the settlement boundaries for the two villages Michaelchurch Escley and Vowchurch. An Environmental Report and a Habitats Regulations Assessment carried out by Herefordshire Council related to the plan were also made available.
Everyone living in the five parishes or with an interest in the area had an opportunity to comment on the plan. At the same time a range of organisations locally and nationally had a chance to comment.
Once the consultation ended the plan was revised in the light of the comments we received and discussed several times by the full Parish Council. A full explanation of the basis on which the Parish Council has determined the settlement boundaries is set out in the draft plan.
The amended draft plan was approved by Herefordshire Council to move on to the next stage, a more formal consultation which ended on 15 February 2017.
Herefordshire Council decided that the draft plan should then be examined by an independent examiner. The main purpose of such an examination is to ensure that the plan meets the basic conditions that have been set nationally for neighbourhood plans, including whether they are consistent with national and local planning policies. The examiner also considered the comments that have been made on the draft plan and make a decision about whether any changes should be made to the plan.
The examiner has concluded that the plan does meet the basic conditions and has recommended that it should proceed to a local referendum. The examiner suggested some amendments to the draft plan which were incorporated.
A referendum was held on 7 September 2017. The result was as follows – 176 voted for the neighbourhood plan to be used in the assessment of future planning applications and 30 people voted against. The turnout was over 30%.
The Parish Council is grateful to all those who contributed to the development of the plan and who voted in the referendum.
A copy of the Neighbourhood Development Plan is available on this website. Printed copies are also available.
All the documents associated with the various stages in the production of the Plan, including the examiner’s report can be viewed on the Herefordshire Council website.
Planners have referred to the policies in the Plan which recommend that buildings should reflect local styles and materials in commenting on recent planning applications and this is encouraging. However, it has to be said that a number of local residents and the Parish Council were very disappointed by the decision of Herefordshire Council in late 2017 to permit the building of 7 new dwellings in Lower Maes-coed. The proposal for new homes in this community was supported in the Neighbourhood Plan on the basis that any development would be in proportion with the existing number of homes as set out in Herefordshire’s own Core Strategy. Building seven new homes will significantly increase the number of homes in Lower Maes-coed and is definitely not proportional. At the Planning Committee it was clear that the overriding objective was the maximum new homes. Our objections and those of local residents were simply set aside. This is not a good outcome and raises concerns about future decisions.
For further information please contact Paul Mason by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.