Joint Henley & Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan Referendum Explainer

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Have you been wondering what the little Poll Card you’ve received is all about? Without a Neighbourhood Plan, we lose our ability to affect the plans for development in our area. We’ll explain the basics and why it’s important that we all vote on 24th November.

What actually is a Neighbourhood Plan?

In very general terms, the allocation of housing development from national to local level works something like this:

The number of new houses required country-wide is decided at national level and it is then passed on down through the chain so that they are distributed fairly throughout the country.

Local communities have the option to produce a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’, providing them with the opportunity to create policies that will affect the location of future development within their parish, rather than just allowing the Local Plan (SODC) to decide where to put the developments and what these developments will be.

The Neighbourhood Plan is a document that sets out a number of sites to put forward for development, but importantly it seeks to ensure that any development is SUITABLE & APPROPRIATE for the parishes it covers. A kind of ‘this is why we chose these sites and not other sites’ explanation (in a long document!)

What is the advantage of having a Neighbourhood Plan in Henley & Harpsden?

Our Neighbourhood Plan can potentially hold developers to account, so they can’t change the purpose of a development where it has been specified (eg housing becoming care homes). It also sets out policies on environment – air quality, biodiversity, trees, local green protected spaces, water courses – and on sustainability. This means that minimising the carbon footprint of the development, including the building materials used, can be brought into the conversation. All of these things then benefit from protection within the Neighbourhood Plan. The revised plan also designates 12 areas as Local Green Space.

Why does it need to be revised?

Our NP, officially known as ‘The Joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan’ (JHHNP) was adopted by South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) in April 2016. SODC has recently revised its Local Plan, so we are obliged to review our Neighbourhood Plan. This gives us an opportunity to consider where it is possible to improve upon the existing Neighbourhood Plan, and this is what we are being asked to vote on. If you don’t want to plough through the whole plan, you can see just the revised elements in a summary here.

Do I really need to vote on it?

If the Neighbourhood Plan is not voted for, we simply do not have this extra layer of local protection. Without it, decisions would be made by SODC to support their Local Plan and it is likely that other developments will be proposed, and that the particular local considerations with regards to environment, sustainability and suitability will not be addressed. Without it, the District Council can decide where development should happen in the parishes, rather than residents being able to contribute to the decision.

Please do go and vote in the Referendum on the JHHNP on 24 November. We need local people at the table for any conversations on local development to make sure that what comes our way is suitable and appropriate for Henley and Harpsden, and having a Neighbourhood Plan in place gives us this.

If we don’t vote YES to the Revised Plan we will be left in a more vulnerable position. Without it in place it is much more likely that developers will get planning permissions with no regard to local circumstances or requirements. 

Further information

You can download a summary of the revised JHHNP points here.

More info is available on the JHHNP website here, where you can also find out who’s involved in the Neighbourhood Planning Committee (around 50% councillors and 50% residents).

You can view the full JHHNP online (and lots of other info) here.

You can even flip through a real life paper version of it (on it’s own little desk with chair) at the Town Hall – just go inside, down the steps to the Information Centre, open the door and it is there in front of you.

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