It’s important for a community to have a shared vision when it comes to planning – but equally, this vision needs to be achievable, with steps and actions set out and acted upon in broad agreement. Neighbourhood planning can be the vehicle for a community’s achievement of its vision.
The Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale Neighbourhood Plan is currently in progress, having begun before the publication of the NPPF and the Localism Act, in late 2010. This makes it an interesting example of how neighbourhood planning can develop in the absence of government guidelines. The latest step taken by the Steering Group is a vision document that has been consulted on with the community. A clear vision was set out in six statements, covering character, wildlife, housing, carbon emissions, the economy and transport.
More than a vision
This sort of ‘vision statement’ isn’t unusual in neighbourhood planning, even at these early stages – we’ve already highlighted the great, shared vision in the Woolley neighbourhood plan here on this blog. What’s really positive about the Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale vision document is the way they’ve taken input from the community about what they want to see in their community, and given a suggested approach to achieving this. For example, the community’s desire for safer roads and pavements that are more attractive to pedestrians and cyclists is mirrored by suggestions of widened pavements and making new developments contingent on rights of way, with pedestrian and cycle paths.
It’s details like this that make a neighbourhood plan just that – a plan. Saying what you want your community to look like in the future is all very well, but without saying what needs to happen or refrain from happening, it’s unlikely that the vision will become a reality.
The detail achieved in this vision document can perhaps be attributed to the Steering Group’s organisational structure. Four topic groups have been formed to help identify key issues, consult with residents, business and stakeholders and to draft sections of the plan. The groups cover housing and the environment; community; economy and transport and infrastructure. Each topic group is headed by a leader, who also sits on the Steering Group, and has a number of local people as members. Recently, members from different topic groups have come together to address issues relating to specific sites and develop options for them. It seems that all those contributing to the Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale plan have their collective vision in mind, but are also able to come up with the practical measures required to achieve it.
This practical aspect can also be found in the map contained within the vision document. That the plan already has a strong spatial element is hugely encouraging. The Steering Group has identified areas with opportunities for enhancement, areas for preservation and green spaces that provide important gaps between villages. There’s been thought about where change can occur, and what’s important to keep and improve upon.
A neighbourhood plan is not just about what the community wants to be and look like in the future, it’s also about what needs to happen to get there. The work already done at Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale bode well for a strong and positive neighbourhood plan.
The group is currently holding a consultation specifically on Ascot High Street and looks to submit the plan to the borough council and hold a local referendum in late 2012/early 2013. Want to find out more? Why not take a look at the vision document and results summary, or the website for this neighbourhood plan?
Have you written a neighbourhood plan? Or do you want to? Get in touch and let us know about your experiences by commenting below. You can join the conversation with us about planning on Twitter (@nationaltrust) using the #planning4ppl hashtag.
Blog by Ellen Reaich, External Affairs Assistant