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Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan

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Visit: Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan - Lastest News


To keep up to date with the latest developments, visit the website - 'Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan'.

Your village, your say!



WASNP Second Consultation Feedback

The Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Event held at the end of November 2016 was attended by over 200 people. An exhibition provided an update on work on the Plan with particular emphasis on how future development could evolve and the location of possible development sites. In total over 115 questionnaires were returned from across the whole village providing useful feedback on the nature and location of future development.

There was a strong desire that the development of existing brownfield sites should be a priority and precede any loss of green belt land. In particular, the former Highways Depot on Station Road, the former business unit in Mill Lane and the old Doctors Surgery in Great Innings North were all described as dilapidated or eyesores which needed redevelopment. However, the majority of respondents also recognised that brownfield development would only deliver a limited number of dwellings and that further development was going to require a limited release of green belt land. The most popular green belt sites for development were to west of Walkern Road and the land off Stevenage Road in the north of the village.

The majority of respondents wanted to see a housing density equivalent to Hazeldell, Great Innings and Motts Close and indicated that the density of the Gatekeepers development should not be repeated. There was a clear view that any new housing development should be in character with the existing village properties, be of traditional brick construction and have high energy efficiency. Most respondents wanted to see a mix of property types (2 to 4 bedrooms, starter homes and bungalows) with a clear preference for a maximum of 2 storeys. Gardens should be provided which would be big enough for families with appropriate landscaping and screening between properties. There was strong support for high speed broadband.

Parking was by far the biggest issue and many were concerned that the existing parking and traffic issues had not been solved. Adequate off street parking was therefore seen as essential but not necessarily provided as garaging.

There was clear concern about the impact new development would have on services and infrastructure within the village and that there should be expansion of school provision and medical facilities. The traffic implications of additional development was of concern and should be addressed at the planning stage with improvements to the highway provision, bus and rail services and cycle links to the neighbouring area.

Many respondents endorsed the proposals made by local organisations and in particular there was agreement that there should be provision for football pitches primarily located on the outskirts of the village. There was very strong support for making improvements to the scout hut on its existing site. There was a general desire for improved facilities for all age groups. Finding ways to improve access to the river and developing a riverside walk was a frequent response.

The steering committee is grateful for the positive response to the work done so far and the wealth of ideas coming from the community. This information will provide a sound framework for further technical studies which will be commissioned to provide the necessary evidence base for the future development of a draft plan.



Woodhall Estate Exhibition

Recently, residents may have received a flyer from the Woodhall Estate advertising an exhibition which will be hosted by them in the village in May. The exhibition is regarding possible housing development in Watton-at-Stone on their land.

In response to this, the Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group would like to make the following statement:

"The Parish Council and Neighbourhood Plan steering committee wish to make it very clear that they have not 'engaged' Woodhall Estate to put forward land for development. The Estate team has had a few meetings with the Neighbourhood Plan team but they have not had any greater degree of access to them or insight into their emerging thinking than anyone else, and is certainly not being preferred over any other option. The process of deciding whether any land (and if so, which plot) might properly be released from the greenbelt remains very much under discussion. F ollowing the public consultations, professional advice on the greenbelt issue is being sought. No decisions have yet been made. The Woodhall Estate has apologised for this misleading error in their flyer."



Following the recent Neighbourhood Plan consultation, an update will shortly be published on the Neighbourhood Plan website at http://www.was-np.org/ Thanks to all Watton-at-Stone residents who participated in our first consultation on the Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan earlier this year. We had the opportunity to engage and speak with hundreds of residents, businesses and organisations, hearing your thoughts on how our village could develop, regarding housing, infrastructure and amenities.

Why is the Plan important?

The Neighbourhood Plan will be a set of community-led planning policies about development, regeneration and conservation in Watton-at-Stone, which will form part of the formal planning policy for our village, applied by the East Herts District Council. Having the Plan in place will mean we will have a say at the outset of any planning processes, rather than having to wait until plans are further down the line. This is our chance to influence new housing development and provide new facilities in our parish. The more people who take part in this conversation, the more effective we can be.

What is the next stage?

The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Committee has collected your ideas together into key themes and will present those to you in a second round of consultation. An exhibition will take place on Saturday 26 November and Sunday 27 November at the Nigel Poulton Community Hall, from 10 am to 2 pm on each day. This launches a 6-week consultation period, in which you are invited to express your views. The consultation period will end on 7 January 2017, so it is important that you fill in our survey or email us in that time, if you'd like your thoughts to be included. Details of how to contact us are on our website.

During the exhibition, we'll show you the areas of the village that have been suggested as places for extra homes and ask for your views. We also want to know your opinions on what these homes should look like and how many there should be. New homes also mean new facilities for the village, so we'll be asking you about what the village needs and where new amenities could go. We are also going to ask you for feedback on suggestions of how the environment we live in can be protected and improved.

East Herts District Plan

Please note that our consultation is separate to the consultation on the East Herts District Plan. That Plan will be published on 3 November and residents will have 6 weeks to comment on it. There will be information on the District Plan at our exhibition, but we're only seeking residents' views on the Neighbourhood Plan (although you can of course give East Herts your views on the District Plan, or let the Parish Council know your views).

The East Herts District Plan will state that there will be development within East Herts villages. With the provision of a Neighbourhood Plan the residents of Watton-at-Stone stand a better chance of determining the type and locations of development within the village. Eventually it is expected that the Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan will sit alongside the East Herts District Plan, giving a more detailed level of requirements for those wishing to develop in our particular parish.

And then?

Following the second consultation, the Steering Group will write the Neighbourhood Plan. We expect to complete it in Spring 2017. We will then hold a final 6-week consultation on that detailed Plan. The Steering Committee will then update the Plan as necessary and will submit it to East Herts District Council, which will hold a further consultation on our draft Plan and submit it to an examiner, who will check that it meets the relevant statutory requirements. We hope to submit it in Autumn 2017.

Assuming the Plan meets the criteria, Watton-at-Stone parishioners will then be asked to vote on whether they would like to adopt the Plan in a referendum. We hope this referendum will take place in late 2018/early 2019, however that is dependent on the East Herts District's Council's timings.

We look forward to seeing you at our Neighbourhood Plan exhibition on Saturday 26 November and Sunday 27 November at the Nigel Poulton Community Hall, from 10 am to 2 pm on each day. You'll also be able to find the consultation questions and background information on our website at www.was-np-org.

The Steering Committee

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To find out more:

Website:
Watton-at-Stone Neighbourhood Plan.

Email:
community@was-np.org

Village Meeting 12th November 2015

About 120 people attended this meeting. Several topics were discussed. Considerable concern was raised over the high volumes of traffic within the village leading to potentially dangerous situations. The meeting was updated on the County Council's Highways Department's plans to address these problems and all residents should by now have received a copy of their detailed plans for comment.

The other main topic was the future development of the village particularly where this could involve Green Belt land. There was a general acceptance at the meeting that some degree of development in the village is almost inevitable but the Parish Council (PC) remains opposed to development on Green Belt land, which is also the view of the majority of residents.

District Councillor Michael Freeman gave a detailed explanation of the housing challenges facing the country, the district of East Hertfordshire and the village of Watton at Stone. He explained that a number of serious issues could still influence the final draft of East Herts Council's District Plan although the PC will reiterate its position on the Green Belt and ask the District Council to reflect this position in its final draft.

Michael Freeman argued that instead of trying to erect a barricade against any form of development which would leave the village with very few options if development is unavoidable, it would be more productive and better for the village in the long run if a three part approach is adopted, based on strong planning policy grounds:

  1. We should continue to exploit the potential for development on all the remaining brown field sites in the village as an alternative to Green Belt. We are also talking to the Woodhall Estate on its plans for the future.
  2. If the above does not deliver the number of housing units we are being asked to accommodate, we should argue that the Green Belt review commissioned by East Herts Council has confirmed that the Green Belt around Watton is of major importance and therefore should not be developed.
  3. We should then argue that in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework handed down to local authorities by the Government, development on Green Belt land can only be permitted in “very special circumstances” and we will all want convincing that those circumstances exist.

No vote was taken on this proposal but there was widespread agreement that it is the way forward.

The PC is of the firm opinion that a Neighbourhood Plan should be developed. PC Chairman Mike Smith was at pains to describe its potential benefits but also emphasised its downsides. He said that we should be in no doubt that such plans are pro development, not just new building but all aspects of how the village will develop in the future. Furthermore, the plan must be in line with the broader Local (District) Plan being developed by the District Council. For example, it could not reduce the number of houses required by that Plan. In addition it will require considerable input in terms of money and time although there is grant funding available to support the costs.

Mike Smith added that a 900 house leaflet drop concerning Neighbourhood Plans had generated only 6 replies and so he asked those at the meeting if they would give a show of hands to demonstrate that there is support for this important issue. Approximately two thirds of those present agreed that a Neighbourhood Plan should be pursued.

As a result it has since emerged that we now have 22 volunteers, add to this representatives from other interested parties, the Parish Council now has high hopes that a balanced plan can be developed.