August 26, 2015

Neighbourhood Plans

John writes for the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser.

Over the past year, I have been astounded by the amount of work local communities around the Buckingham constituency have put in to developing their Neighbourhood Plans. The simple, inescapable fact is that the population is growing and new residents will need houses to live in. However, there is a difference between managing such growth with the best interests of the community at heart, and allowing developers motivated by making money to take advantage. Robust Neighbourhood Plans are the most effective way to manage local development and protect against large-scale, unsuitable developments.

The latest in a string of Neighbourhood Plan referendums took place last month in Buckingham. As I am sure many Buckingham residents are aware, the plan focuses on proposals relating to housing but also covers a huge range of issues that impact on every member of the community in one way or another. The plan includes proposals for new retail areas, infrastructure and transport connections, a new cemetery and new allotment plots, as well as further leisure and community facilities.

I know that the Plan has received an exceptional input from the local community, not least from the Buckingham Society, and it was fantastic to see so many local residents turn out at the polls to have their say. On the day, the Plan was supported with a landslide 91% of the vote.

Neighbourhood Plans have the potential dramatically and directly to influence how the community develops and I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for local residents in all towns and villages throughout the Buckingham constituency have their say on their area continues to develop.

I am all too aware of the struggles some local communities have faced in recent times in relation to development. For example, I am currently working closely with the community of Great Horwood and have requested that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, ‘call in’ one specific application for his personal consideration due to its total unsuitability for the local area. Great Horwood’s Neighbourhood Plan Referendum saw one of the highest turnouts in the country – over 60% – and, like in Buckingham, the Plan was supported by 91% of those who voted. I believe it is imperative that the community’s voice is heard at the highest possible level and I will endeavour to support Great Horwood, and other communities around the constituency, to the best of my ability.