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In Autumn 2008 the Withington Group Parish Council gave the go-ahead for the production of a Parish Plan (as the Community Led Plan was then known). In early 2009 a public meeting was held to discuss what would be involved and a Steering Group was formed consisting of volunteers drawn from all three parishes in the group. Following advice from the Herefordshire Partnership, a course of action was agreed and in mid-year four ‘Planning for Real’ events were held, one each at Preston Wynne Village Hall, Withington Village Hall, the Cross Keys public house and Withington School. These allowed local people to record their feelings about current life in the parishes and about their hopes for the future.
Based on the information gleaned at the ‘Planning for Real’ events, two questionnaires were prepared, one for adults and the other for young people up to the age of 18 years. Approximately 980 questionnaires were distributed by hand to all homes in the three parishes in late September 2009, with extra copies being made available in Withington Stores and via members of the Steering Group. Replies were collected by hand in early October. Completed questionnaires were gathered from 632 adults and 109 young people, giving an overall response rate of 76%. This was a very good response rate, especially considering the geographical size of the parish group.
Thanks to the good offices of the Herefordshire Council Research Team the results of the survey were compiled and analysed, and returned to the Steering Group in mid-December 2009. It may help readers to understand the scale of this task by noting that the printed analysis totalled 168 sides of A4 size paper.
At this stage, the Steering Group embarked on the far-from-easy task of deciding how to start identifying the best way in which to turn the concept of a Community Led Plan into a series of realistic aims and actions. At all times, the Group accepted that whatever they produced would be only the start of a process that, if it was to be truly successful, would be on-going for a number of years. In order to set the ball rolling, some priority actions were decided upon and subsequently agreed with the Parish Council. At this stage, a double-sided ‘flier’ titled ‘We Asked – You Replied – We Will’ was hand-delivered to all homes as a means of keeping residents informed on progress.
Attention then turned to the production of a formal plan which draws together all the ideas that were put forward, the aims to be achieved and the actions to be taken. A questionnaire that was distributed in the Autumn of 2009. After all, their views have to be central to the plan. More importantly, each section specifies the future aims which it is hoped we shall be able to achieve and the individual actions that will have to be taken in pursuit of those aims. The percentages quoted reflect the views expressed by those who answered each question rather than the percentage of the total population of the three parish community. Some actions had been identified as needing early attention and had been given ‘priority’ status and you will see a number have been completed. As the community plan was for 2010 to 2015 we are now in the early stages of the development of the neighbourhood plan that will replace the community plan when it comes to an end and it also gives us (local people) a greater say in how we want our parish to develop over the next 10 to 15 years.
A copy of the Community Plan can be found here.
The neighbourhood plan came from government regulation and following a parish meeting in May 2013. It was agreed that the Withington Group would create a neighbourhood plan for the 3 parishes as part of the group. One plan covering all the parishes. A steering group was formed of a councillor from each of the 3 parishes and after a request for support and help in developing the plan, a further person joined the team.
The next stage and the first official stage was to define the boundary of the plan and this is the 3 parishes of Withington, Preston Wynne and Westhide. A proposal application was submitted to Herefordshire Council and they publicised the application online and as well as in prominent places in the parish. After 6 weeks we received the approval to go ahead.
We then started stage 2 also known as Reg 14 to consult with local community and stakeholder groups. This was done by the 6 open days done in January and February of 2014 across the 3 parishes. A further session was then done in March 2014 looking at the housing requirements and gaining feedback from members of the public.
A questionnaire delivered to every house in the parish and business was started in June 2014 with collection occurring in July 2014. The results of these questionnaires and details of the Plots identified and feedback from the open days can be found here
While the consultation has been occurring an initial environment assessment has been completed. There are two environmental assessments which are relevant to the Neighbourhood Development Plan process: HRA-Habitats Regulations Assessment and The Strategic Environmental Assessment-SEA will form part of the evidence base for the plan.
The SEA provides environmental evidence and information to prepare Neighbourhood Development Plans. Looks at environmental issues both positive and negative that the plan may have one the local environment.
During 2015, Herefordshire County Council had to re-define the housing numbers required by the UK government as part of their Local Plan – Core Strategy. This changed the areas defined by Herefordshire County Council for housing. It had a major effect of the Withington Group Parish numbers.
The Herefordshire Local Plan – Core Strategy was adopted by the council on 16th October 2015. Further details can be found here
The Withington Group parishes then discussed these new housing numbers within their council meetings and following a number of discussions with the Herefordshire Planning team and due to a number of planning requests coming in at the same time our numbers required by the neighbourhood plan have now been far exceeded.
It was agreed in the summer of 2017 that we would pick up the Neighbourhood plan and get it finished. We wanted to drive our parish forward and the locations of new houses as we had already lost a number of appeals as we did not have a plan in place.
Further details from the steering group can be found here