Neighbourhood plan could give more power to residents

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 June 2012

Archant

A NEW working party has been formed which could give residents and councillors the chance to change the outcome on planning developments.

The group, which will be made up of 40 per cent councillors and 60 per cent residents, was suggested to the Burnham and Highbridge town council by members Helen Groves and Phil Harvey.

The aim of the group is to review Sedgemoor District Council’s planning policy, make recommendations and compile a new document, which will become a neighbourhood plan.

Cllr Groves said: “We are looking to set up our first meeting and then we can come back to the town council with recommendations.

“We are not allowed to over-rule Sedgemoor’s policy documentation about what is a maisonette, a flat, or a house, but we would be able to have a description of what each is and if it is accepted it is binding upon Sedgemoor, so there will never again be a debate.”

Cllr Groves said while these decisions may sound small, they could make a big impact when it comes to proposed planning developments.

She said one in particular which could have been very different if a neighbourhood plan was already in place is the proposed Clyce Road development, which has raised many concerns in the town due to the type of properties which may be being built.

The plans include 85 two, three and four-bedroom properties and 10 one-bedroom flats in Highbridge. The final decision on the development has been halted pending a site visit.

Cllr Groves said: “If we had a neighbourhood plan at this point and had clearly defined what the housing types are we would not necessarily be having the argument over the development.

“A lot of the properties have been listed as maisonettes but when you look at the design, they are basically flats. It’s fine to have some flats as part of a building development, but it’s not good to have a primary focus on them because that is where you get problems.

“With a neighbourhood plan we can improve upon policies so they are less easy to set aside.

“We do not want planning to become so restrictive that no development can happen anywhere, but there is a need to tighten these things up.”

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