South Downs National Park threat of plans ‘take-over’ is lifted

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THE threat of a South Downs National Park takeover of neighbourhood plans has been lifted with a decision to let towns and villages continue to draw up their own policies.

Members of the national park’s planning committee were concerned that some communities may not make the April 1 deadline for their neighbourhood development plans (NDPs) to reach the sub-submission stage.

They want them complete by the time their own Local Plan goes out to consultation in October. Otherwise they fear there will be housing allocation site ‘holes’ in their own plan which will put it at risk of being thrown out by a government planning inspector.

They are particularly concerned about the ‘big five’ NDPs where the greatest number of houses are to be built.

These include Petworth and Lewes which are still at an early stage.

But making a plea for more time today (Thursday, January 21) chairman of Petworth Town Council Chris Kemp reassured members the town was making good progress.

“I also want to express our surprise and disappointment such an unreasonable deadline should have been threatened at such short notice.”

He added: “The threat of the SDNPA allocating development sites themselves appears to be entirely counter to the spirit of the Localism Act which gives local people the opportunity to influence the future of their towns through Neighbourhood Development Plans.”

He said it was true that progress had until recently been more measured than the town’s steering group wished.

But, he said, Petworth was ‘quite split’ and it had been difficult to pull together representatives who were willing to volunteer for the neighbourhood plan task.

“But now we are cracking forward and beg your patience.”

SDNPA chairman Margaret Paren told him she was aware of the particular problems experienced in Petworth “It is right to give extra time to these plans,” she said, “it isn’t as though they are stalling - they are making progress.”

Even if they did not make the April 1 deadline she said “we still have some more time and we should use it by allowing communities the best possible opportunities to complete their own plans.”

The progress of all plans currently being drawn up will continue to be monitored by the planning director and further action could be taken if they do not progress.

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