The Draft Congleton Neighbourhood Plan is now at the Public Examination Stage (Regulation 17). An independently appointed Planning Inspector has been assessing the plan to make sure that it adheres to National and Local Planning policies and has been properly made.
The Inspector has raised a series of questions relating mainly to the housing numbers and Congleton Neighbourhood Plan’s proposed green space policies. The questions raised can be seen at www.mycongleton.org
The examiner’s company has considered more than 100 Neighbourhood Plans, and has commented that Congleton’s Plan is in the top 7 or 8 most complex plans that his company has seen.
A big part of the complication for the Congleton Neighbourhood Plan is the housing allocation. The housing figures referred to in the Cheshire East Council Local Plan refers to the Congleton Key Service Centre which covers not only Congleton but all the land to the north of the town up to the new Link Road. The majority of the land allocated for ‘Congleton’s’ new housing in the Local Plan is outside the Congleton Neighbourhood Plan area, on the land between the town boundary and the link road. The only housing figure available from Cheshire East relates to the larger Key Service Centre Area and so the Neighbourhood Plan team is currently calculating an up-to-date (31st December 2018) housing assessment for the Neighbourhood Plan area covering houses built and land where there is planning permission in place to build.
In relation to the Green Space policies, Congleton’s Neighbourhood Plan is seeking to safeguard some areas from future development. The Inspector has asked the team to clarify the descriptions of the various areas of Green Space and provide plans to illustrate the various areas involved.
The Neighbourhood Plan team is currently working its way through all of the Examiner’s questions and should be in a position to respond with the written elements next week (w/c 21st Jan). The team is reliant on the assistant from Cheshire East Council with some of the mapping work and so this element may need some more time.
It is important that the responses are robust and accurate. The team has been warned that it is likely that the examiner could come back with follow-up questions. As a result, it is unlikely that the Congleton Neighbourhood Plan will go to referendum ahead of the May elections. Referendums are organised by Cheshire East Democratic Services and will not be held during the six week ‘purdah period’ ahead of an election.