The end of the beginning … initial consultation launch

The first NDP Steering Group meeting was held on 12 October 2017.  At the time we hoped to get a plan all wrapped up within six months. Jim Boot, our experienced consultant said it would take two years.  As I write this in mid-January 2019 and I can report we are not quite at the beginning of the end, but we are at the end of the beginning.

Last month I set out the criteria by which we are assessing the 20 sites offered so far by landowners for development, and asked for your views.  We have received supportive and helpful feedback.  And, as you’ll see elsewhere in this magazine, interest in the neighbourhood plan continues to gather pace and energy.

After many months work, learning the complexities of planning regulations, gathering local information and consulting with villagers we have finally started drafting our plan. Why then do I say we are only at the end of the beginning?

Our first draft plan will be offered to the Parish Council, as the statutory body responsible for the plan, in February.  We will ask them to approve publication of our rough draft to residents for informal consultation.  So a date for your diary.  We want to invite you to a Parish meeting at Benenden village hall on Saturday 23 February. At that meeting we will share our proposed policies and development allocations. Details are:

Exhibition & Presentation on Saturday 23rd February

Benenden Village Hall, doors open 1:30pm;

Presentation 2-3pm;

Exhibition closes 4pm

We will be seeking feedback on this draft plan from residents, landowners and other stakeholders for around six weeks.  Concurrently we aim to obtain ‘Screening Approval’ from TWBC.  They will check we have adhered to national and borough planning policies.  We will also receive an independent Strategic Environmental Assessment Report.  Based on these inputs we will adjust the plan as required.

A revised draft of the plan should be published in May for formal ‘Regulation 14’ consultation. This is a six week process managed by TWBC, seeking the views of stakeholders; in effect parishioners like you and me, local businesses, landowners and developers.  Based on the representations received TWBC may ask us to make further changes to the plan.  Next comes the ‘Regulation 15’ formal consultation, this time managed by the Independent Examiner, providing another six weeks for stakeholders to review the amended plan and to feedback.  Representations will be assessed by the Independent Examiner who has the power to instruct us to make changes or to uphold each aspect of the plan.  We hope to undertake Reg 15 in October 2019.

The final plan will be published (we hope) in December 2019.  Residents of the Parish will be able to vote for or against that final plan in a referendum January 2020.

We plan to keep everyone informed on progress via the three consultations, additional exhibitions and presentations.  There will also be our monthly magazine updates.  I am hoping that when our referendum finally happens everyone will be well informed and fully understand the consequences of a Yes or No vote. Won’t that make a change!