Ashbourne is about to have a Neighbourhood Plan and you need to make your views heard.
The Town Council is assisting a group of local residents to construct a legally binding document which outlines what we want, and how we want it from an Ashbourne perspective. The way I see it, we have a once off opportunity to take control of what happens in our own town. We can ensure we don’t have the perpetual arguments about libraries, affordable housing, provision for health and education, public toilets, housing, impact of industry, the heritage area, flooding, leisure facilities, the Yeldersley smell, retailers coming/going and travellers sites. We can’t pull up the drawbridge and say “no” to everything but we can say “yes” to attract the things we like and “how” to those we find less palatable.
The reason these debates happen is that virtually anything is permissible in Ashbourne under the existing Planning regulations nationally and at regional level. The current Derbyshire Dales Strategic Framework is focussed on sustainable development and Ashbourne, Wirksworth and Matlock are identified as the key sites for new development in the Derbyshire Dales. As with all legislation there is considerable latitude for interpretation and the Neighbourhood Plan allows us to lay down our own guidelines in a legally binding document.
The clock is ticking. Derbyshire Dales is in the process of formulating its own new Local Plan in response to national legislation. The issue of where the housing would be located in Ashbourne came about through the DDDC consultation with us as part of the document. If we had a Neighbourhood Plan in place today they would be forced to consider it as part of their work – the whole debate about where the new housing should be located would be redundant. As it stands the Ashbourne Neighbourhood Plan and the Derbyshire Dales Local Plan will be developed in parallel but the DDDC are considerably further ahead.
As it stands a group has formed to put in a lot of hard work drafting a Neighbourhood Plan document. New members are welcomed and if you would like to be involved get in touch with the Town Council (Darren Archer, Lucy Green and Sue Bull are instrumental in this). Other neighbourhood parishes are being encouraged to join in the process if possible (Clifton, Yeldersley etc). The first stage for this will be public consultation to identify what we want. It is vitally important that everyone (and for me the most important group – the young – are the ones who could easily be overlooked) has their say and that the whole process begins with the right priorities. This has to be counterbalanced by the need for pace in the process. Ashbourne in recent times has demonstrated a schizophrenia over consultation. When DDDC wanted to know our strategic priorities a few years ago and our views on the market approximately 18 months ago only a handful of people participated. Whether this was due to apathy or bad advance publicity, The effect was that we gave DDDC the wrong impression which led to some bad decision-making. Only later, when the impact was obvious in subsequent decisions did the town turn out in their hundreds to protest.
We can’t keep leaving it until the last-minute. The Neighbourhood Plan is an excellent device being used by communities around the country to raise their sights above the current symptomatic issues and think about the place we live in 20 years time. This isn’t easy – imagine what you would say if suddenly confronted by someone with a clipboard in the street tomorrow! It can be all too easy to answer with a string of things we don’t want rather than the things we do. We all need to contribute to the creation of the plan and the process requires we vote for the plan before it becomes effective.
What are your top priorities for Ashbourne?