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In Full . . .

Positive response to Neighbourhood Plan

Posted on May 27 2014 at 2:39:17

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Thank you to all of you who returned the questionnaire on the Neighbourhood Plan options. The responses were very interesting, and we are particularly pleased that so many people wrote in comments as well as ticking the boxes, writes Mary Green of the Neighbourhood Plan’s Steering Group.

We found that 93 per cent of you supported the vision and 86 per cent the core objectives of the Plan. Those who didn’t made some useful contributions, which we will take account of in our redrafting. Some people wanted them to be simpler and have less “local government speak,” which we will try to do.

Some said that we already had what we want in Alvechurch Parish and didn’t want any “development” or change. Others suggested the vision and objectives were not challenging enough! We will try to reflect the positive aspects of Alvechurch Parish now as well as challenges for the future.

When it came to the individual topics and alternatives, there was again a good deal of agreement. However, housing remains a contentious issue. There is not an option to build no more houses.

We are bound by Bromsgrove’s District Plan which says that large settlements like Alvechurch village will have to take a share of new housing in the next 16 years. And there will be no more land left, here or elsewhere in the District, except green belt.

Our suggested options were to spread housing equally across the settlements or to concentrate them around Alvechurch village. Neither of these got clear approval, but we will have to do one or the other.

And while there was not a majority for “smaller inexpensive housing”, some people were very much in support of suitable housing for elderly and young people.

In the Plan we will include proposals for where and what size and type of housing we should take. We want some control over this. If we don’t, it will happen anyway and be outside of our influence. We will propose a controlled mix of sizes and types of housing appropriate to their settings.

The other thing we have to take into account is that unpopular word “sustainability.” What this really means is putting housing where people can get the best access on foot and by public transport to essential facilities. This points to the area around Alvechurch village as the best option.

We will have to find areas currently in the green belt to do this. However, what we will do as well is emphasise the spirit of green belt, which we all think is crucial.

We will not support housing which means “joining up” our settlements, and will make sure there is green belt between us and the big local towns. We will also look for housing which is well designed and in keeping with the village we love. We will consult you further about this.

The other themes – business, transport and environment – produced a more consistent response. There is a majority for encouraging small, appropriate businesses in Alvechurch and the smaller settlements, though not for giving up green belt land to accommodate them.

Most people would support some improvements to the centre of Alvechurch village.

All the environmental options were supported, especially strongly for maintaining a wildlife-friendly countryside and improving access to it. Most people agreed that the countryside should also be used for farming, tourism or sport, and that we should try to support green and energy-saving measures.

Similarly, all the transport options were supported, especially better, more integrated public transport. Good traffic management, car parking and cycleways were also strongly supported.

These are areas where the Parish Council may not be able to act directly, but can try to influence transport authorities and access funding from developers.

Of course, the different themes are not separate. We could not accept more houses without ensuring our transport systems and local facilities could accommodate them.

If we wish to maintain the core purpose of green belt, we must actively look after the countryside. Alvechurch will change, and we would like to help change it in a positive direction.

The Steering Group is now working on policies for our draft Neighbourhood Plan, and will undertake further consultation with local people later in the year. When we do, please take the opportunity to have your say. It is your Neighbourhood Plan, and you can influence it.

Six people who filled in the recent questionnaire received £25 in the prize draw at the Annual Parish Meeting. Thank you all, prize winners or not, for taking part so actively.

You can find much more information at http://www.alvechurchparishplan.org

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