Issued: February 16, 2016
Villagers given three weeks to commit to Neighbourhood Plan
Villagers in North Weald, Thornwood Common and Hastingwood have been given three weeks to decide whether to commit their time to working on a Neighbourhood Plan.
North Weald Bassett Parish Council will then decide whether there is sufficient community support to proceed with creating a plan.
More than 40 residents and 11 members of the parish council attended a public meeting held by the parish council on Monday to highlight the idea of the Plan which can ensure local people have a say over new development and community infrastructure in their community.
Clerk to the Council Susan De Luca said that a Neighbourhood Plan must actively promote development and must be community-led.
The council's Principal Financial & Administrative Officer, Adriana Jones, said: "It's a powerful tool which affords the community an element of control in terms of what happens in their community with regards to land use."
She stressed that a Neighbourhood Plan cannot stop development and must not be in conflict with Epping Forest District Council's Local Plan and national planning policies.
Additionally, it cannot deal with non-planning matters.
Residents and local community groups would be involved with the Plan, along with
the district council, local land owners and developers, and anyone with a potential interest.
The parish council needs to increase awareness and build up local contacts, and get the community on board if a Neighbourhood Plan is to get off the ground.
Local people are needed to form a steering group which will lead the work with support from the parish council.
The Designated Neighbourhood Area consists of most of the Parish of North Weald Bassett, with the exception of an area west of Thornwood Road, between Rye Hill Road and the M11 roundabout, which includes Latton Priory.
Mrs Jones said: "The Parish is three villages - North Weald, Thornwood Common and Hastingwood - and there are over 7,000 residents.
"You (the 40-plus people at the meeting together with a very few who sent their apologies) are the only people who have come forward and said 'we should do it'.
"This is not enough. It takes community involvement."
Not having a plan means the Parish and its residents would miss an opportunity to have a great degree of control over future development.
Mrs De Luca said: "At North Weald Parish Council we always like to ensure our residents have as much control as they can about the future of where they live, and I believe that is what we are trying to do with the Neighbourhood Plan.
"There is an element of power for you (the residents). Or you can do nothing and moan (about development in the Parish)."
The meeting was told that seven town or parish councils in Epping Forest either have or are working on a Neighbourhood Plan.
Parish councillor Andy Tyler said that without a Neighbourhood Plan the North Weald parish would be a "softer target" for development.
North Weald Airfield, Weald Common and Latton Priory are all potential development sites which would be able to accommodate some 5,000 homes, the meeting was told.
Whilst a Neighbourhood Plan couldn't stop such development, it will allow the community to specify what that development should look like, and ensure it respects the area in which it is sited.
Mrs Jones said a Neighbourhood Plan is not only about housing - it can also protect much valued open green spaces, heritage sites, sites of valued local interest and can also include facilities - doctors' surgeries, schools, cycling and health issues, providing the residents are willing to do the work involved.
Parish council chairman councillor Cyril Hawkins said: "We are asking whether you (residents) are going to take this (working on the Plan) on. This is a new start - get together and say 'we will make a difference'."
The meeting was told that four developers have already approached the parish council saying they want to be involved with the Neighbourhood Plan.
Mrs Jones said: "The argument is, is 50 people representative of 7,000 people in the
parish? We need your help to raise awareness. Talk to your friends and neighbours and ask them if they are interested. We need more people than there is here tonight."
Expressions of interest from people willing to commit their time to working on a Neighbourhood Plan should be with the parish council by Monday, March 7.