Update, March 2016
The November 2015 edition of the Town Council’s monthly Newsletter included an important update on the next stages of the process for finalising the Needham Market Neighbourhood Plan. It referred to crucial information required from Mid Suffolk District Council. The District Council has not maintained its 5-year Housing Land Supply Policy which, if in place, provides a strategic management plan for how the District will grow its housing availability. In the absence of that Policy and, with a well publicised ‘housing crisis’ across the country, the Town Council’s work on progressing our Neighbourhood Plan to completion is taking place in a vacuum. Following meetings with senior managers at the District Council during the latter part of last year, we were told the vital information would be available by the end of the year. Little did we suspect, as we are now well into March, we would still be waiting for this information.
The lack of essential Policy at the District Council has effectively left the door open to housing developers to put forward development proposals which, if the Policy was in place, and in particular where a Neighbourhood Plan was able to be completed, could be considered speculative. In the absence of a relevant District Council Policy, the onus on a developer to justify a proposal for housing development is substantially different. If the District Council has a Policy in place it would be given considerable weight in decision making on housing development proposals. Without a District Council Policy (i.e. the position we are in) proposals for new housing development need only to be proved sustainable. At the Town Council meeting held on 2nd March, Hopkins Homes delivered a presentation on their proposal to build 150 new houses off Barking Road, their motivation for submitting the proposal and their total confidence that planning approval will be granted was driven by the fact the District Council has failed to maintain a 5-year Housing Supply Policy.
The other important factor which stems from the inability of the Town Council to finalise its Neighbourhood Plan, is the impact that position will have on the amount of funding due to the Town Council from the developer, should the development gain Planning Approval and proceed. Hopkins Homes have estimated they will have to contribute approximately £650,000 in developer contributions should the proposed development of 150 houses off Barking Road take place. If the Town has a Neighbourhood Plan in Place, 25% of that contribution would come directly to the Town Council. If no Neighbourhood Plan is in place this contribution reduces to 15%, in which case the local community will be deprived of around £65,000 of funding. This is a good deal of money for a town the size of Needham Market and could go a long way towards providing additional local amenities or helping to support those already in place (e.g. Needham Market Library).
The position the Town Council finds itself in is deeply frustrating. Our Draft Neighbourhood Plan, which reflects over two years of comprehensive consultation with our local community, makes it clear local people wish to see the development of ‘Brownfield Sites’ (i.e. those previously used for a purpose such as the recently developed Needham Maltings site and the to-be developed Needham Chalk Quarry site) exhausted before any development takes place on ‘Greenfield sites’ (i.e. agricultural land surrounding the town’s existing development boundary).
The Town Council is fully aware of and accepts that growth of the town is necessary but feels very much now on the ‘back foot’ as far as trying to influence where that growth may take place. The Town Council continues to put pressure on the District Council to come up with the vital information on which it can review and rebase its current Draft Neighbourhood Plan.
Hopkins Homes are at least providing the Town Council and our community the opportunity to see and discuss their proposals for land off Barking Road in advance of their submission of a Planning Application. The Town Council will certainly take that opportunity and encourages members of its community to do the same.
Hopkins Homes is holding a drop-in public consultation event on Monday 14th March at Needham Market Community Centre, from 3pm to 8pm. After the event Hopkins Homes will have a website www.barkingroadneedhammarket.co.uk which will have material from the consultation on view.
The Needham Market Neighbourhood Plan is one of a fast growing number of new style planning documents which are based on the views of local residents and business communities. Central Government has encouraged local people to become involved in locally prepared plans through the Localism Act and this supports communities having a greater say in the way their locality is developed.
Mid Suffolk District Council has adopted a Core Strategy planning document to explain where and how economic development and housing growth will take place in the period to 2025/6. The Core Strategy includes Needham Market. Needham Market Town Council believes it is important that its local community has a chance to comment on the location and possible impact of future development as the Core Strategy stipulates Needham Market will be expected to accept some new housing development during the Core Strategy period.
In the absence of an Area Action Plan explaining how local new housing development is to be delivered, the Town Council resolved to facilitate the creation of a local planning policy document which is a fair reflection of the local community’s aims for its neighbourhood, i.e. a Neighbourhood Plan. The Needham Market Neighbourhood Plan intends to ensure there is a clear overview of future development proposals, thereby anticipating issues growth of the town may present.
To accommodate the District Council’s own strategic plan parameters the Town Council has proposed application of the fifteen year period, 2015 – 2030, to its own Neighbourhood Plan.
Needham Market’s Neighbourhood Plan has been developed by a dedicated group of Town Councillors, the Town Clerk and a Planning advisor with experience of community plan making. They have sought and taken into account the views of the town’s residents and businesses and a range of stakeholders gathered through a series of consultation events, questionnaires and surveys, which are documented in the appendices of the Neighbourhood Plan. The foundations of the Neighbourhood Plan are based on a diligent review of statistical and other relevant evidence gathered from a considerable scope of research and investigation. This information can be found in the Appendix “Building the Evidence Base”. Complimentary information is contained in the Suffolk Acre research document which combines local and census data about Needham Market.
The Needham Market Neighbourhood Plan sets out a vision for the future of the town focussed on local aspirations, which is rational and acknowledges the context of the town in national, regional and district planning control.
The plan has to conform to the national hierarchy of planning guidance and a downloadable copy of the plan, together with links to all the supporting documents, is listed below.
Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Letter Parishes 03.04.14 (CONA)
ATM 2014 Invite and NP Consultation Letter for groups and organisations (CONB)
Public Consultation Event 21.06.14 Summary (CONC)
Neighbourhood Plan Business Consultation Letter 18.07.14 (COND)
Neighbourhood Plan Insert September 2014 Newsletter (CONE)
Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Event 21.3.2015 (CONF)
Consultation Event Photo 21.03.15 (CONG)