Last Saturday morning, in the Town Hall, the fledgling Neighbourhood Plan group held an open morning. The Government laid down a National Planning Policy Framework for development which, amongst other things, outlines the expected housing needs over the next few years. This is taken by Derbyshire Dales District Council and converted into a necessarily-generic Local Plan with allocations for each area. The lack of precision has been a major flaw in the previous Local Plan and, as a result, virtually anything is compliant. The next cycle runs from 2014-2028 and DDDC has produced a draft version of what the next one will look like – where the housing will be allocated in Ashbourne for example. The next stage is to convert that document into something which reflects the aspirations of Ashbourne. We need to be compliant with the Local Plan but we can refine it still further top determine the type of development we want and the things we expect the developers to deliver alongside.
If we had this previously we could have determined the decision over Waterside Retail Park much better and there is a clearer message for developers going forward.
Visitors on Saturday to the Town Hall could see the sites which were discussed as part of the DDDC Consultation. They could meet the Urban Vision consultants that have been employed to provide advice through the process. Finally, there was a first opportunity to make views heard about what you like/dislike, want to change/keep about the town. There was also a call for volunteers to help with the process – this can’t be a Town Council activity; it needs to represent the Neighbourhood properly.
It was very encouraging to see 65 people attending from a variety of locations and with a broad range of backgrounds on what was a bit of a miserable morning. The challenge for the organisers is to get pace and energy into the process. One of the fundamental principles is that the Neighbourhood Plan must have a mandate which is established through consultation and a referendum. If nobody cares and nobody is willing to support then nobody can have grounds to complain when the Ashbourne we have in 2028 is not the one we wanted for our children.
Of course we’ve taken a real body blow with the Inspector’s ruling over Willow Meadow Farm but this must be the way forward. If you would like to help or have a view the website is http://www.shaping-our-community.org/