Work on town neighbourhood plan continues in the background

Stamford. Photo: SM240712-003ow
Stamford. Photo: SM240712-003ow
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Following the recent consultation by South Kesteven District Council on its Local Plan, Stamford First, the group behind the creation of a Neighbourhood Plan for Stamford, says plans are progressing well.

Stamford First hopes to undertake its own consultation with residents early in the new year.

Speaking about the Neighbourhood Plan, chairman of Stamford First David Taylor, told the Mercury said: “Historically, Stamford’s future development has been guided solely by SKDC’s Local Plan with Stamford’s residents having little or no influence. That’s why we made the decision to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for the town.

“SKDC’s Local Plan shapes planning policies “district-wide”, but the Stamford Neighbourhood Plan will focus solely on our town and will comprise policies which give local residents greater control over development here.”

The essence of Neighbourhood Planning is that plans are shaped by local communities, based upon their views and aspirations.

Since launching in early 2016, Stamford First has focused on consultation, through public forums, in meetings with residents’ groups and local organisations such as the Civic Society, and also with businesses and business groups including the Stamford Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally in the Autumn of last year, questionnaires were delivered to all 8,000 houses in the Stamford, encouraging people to give their views on how the town should develop over the next 20 years - almost 2,000 responses were received.

As reported previously in the Mercury, based on responses from the survey, Stamford residents’ primary concern is for the town’s unique character and heritage to be protected as the area is developed. Other key issues of concern were parking, highways infrastructure, affordable housing, and a need to promote economic growth.

David said: “Stamford’s Neighbourhood Plan will not be a panacea and will not address all of the concerns which people have about the future development of the town, particularly the scale of it. Growth targets are set by local authorities in response to government demands.

“In Stamford’s case this means that SKDC has proposed the allocation of land for almost 1,300 homes between now and 2036, with a further 600 by Rutland County Council, all to the north of the town. However, a neighbourhood plan cannot be used to prevent or reduce development.

“But what the Stamford Plan will do is to shape that growth, influence where building should take place, what developments should look like and ensure that appropriate investment in infrastructure and services is made by developers to make growth sustainable. Already we have seen the benefits of developing the Neighbourhood Plan and by representing residents’ views to SKDC we have been able us to exert strong influence on its Local Plan.”

Talking about some of the “emerging” policies within the plan Mr Taylor told the Mercury that he expects upwards of 70 policies to be included. Key among those policies is one which calls for an holistic “masterplan” to be created for the whole of SKDC’s proposed “Stamford North” expansion to avoid a piecemeal approach to development. Other policies call for the creation of design policies and guidelines which protect the character of the town. And, in order to promote business growth within the town, the plan calls for previously allocated, as well as existing employment space in the town, to be protected to ensure that it can only be developed as such.

“As a Neighbourhood Planning group, we are wholly supportive of SKDC’s wishes to bring inward investment and jobs into the town and we see it as incumbent on us to ensure that land is available for this purpose. Stamford cannot simply be a dormitory town but needs to enable existing, growing, businesses to remain, and encourage new ones to establish themselves here.”

Following consultation with residents in early 2018, the Stamford Neighbourhood Plan will undergo independent examination to ensure that it conforms with due process before being the subject of a legally binding referendum among all Stamford residents.

David went on to say: “Developing this plan been a lengthier process than we had anticipated and we have been delayed to some extent by SKDC’s Local Plan running behind schedule. However, our ambition is to still to undertake consultation on the draft in the Spring of 2018.

“Once Stamford’s Neighbourhood Plan is approved it becomes a statutory planning instrument which sets out planning polices to which developers have to conform.”