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Neighbourhood Plan Commentary

by Haddenham Webteam – 10th July 2015
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At a lively public debate on the Neighbourhood Plan (the last before the forthcoming local referendum on Thursday 16th July) held at the junior school on Tuesday evening, there was significant issue taken by some residents, who encouraged Haddenham voters not to accept the Neighbourhood Plan as currently offered.

The discussion was certainly of interest to members of the audience and it raised some energetic debate. Time was limited however, and Martin Bygate (Townside), a member of the HVS Planning Group, has proposed a further reflection on some of the concerns.

The editor is grateful to Martin for offering us this response to what some might consider a relatively detailed but nonetheless important element of the Plan.

Publishers of the NO campaign website have refused to publish Martin's commentary.

At the Referendum meeting on Tuesday evening held by Haddenham Village Society, there were two specific criticisms of the Neighbourhood Plan which I feel need further responses, and I'd like to offer some.

The first claimed that the report of the Independent Examiner made significant criticisms of the HNP.

Having re-read the Examiner's report, I have to say this criticism is very, very misleading. I've read many examiner's reports, and there's no question that this report is most emphatically positive about the HNP – both in terms of the processes followed, and the substance of the Plan.

Amendments made by the Examiner are only to help clarity, or else to ensure that the HNP is consistent with all the myriad laws, statutes and existing plans and policies which we have to live by. But as the Examiner says, even specialists in land and development law make errors, and it is perfectly reasonable for these to be corrected. For the Examiner, this Plan is clearly outstanding.

The second criticism stated that the rank ordering of the development sites was not consistent with the actual individual site appraisals.

As a member of the Haddenham Village Society Planning Group, which explicitly takes a 'whole-village' view of all development plans in Haddenham, I took a particular interest in the detailed appraisals of the individual sites, so am sympathetic to this possible criticism.

It turns out that a clerical error entered into the final collation of the data, around 20-26 January: the score for HNP site 003 (the larger Dollicott site) was indeed incorrectly transcribed as 35 instead of 32. However, if we leave out the sites that are not available for sale (Bradmoor Farm – HNP 006) or not favoured by AVDC (South Lower Road – HNP 007 – the reserve site), this puts the larger Dollicott site at equal 4th.

I have asked for all the other figures to be checked and have been assured that there were no other transcribing errors. The ranking of the priority sites is therefore robust. More generally, acknowledging this error for me in no way undermines the NP: the criteria used for the site assessments have been strongly validated and endorsed, as have the methods used to apply them.

Neighbourhood Plans are government policy and have legal force: they may not let us do everything we want, but they simply can't be systematically ignored.

Ours is certified as a formidable tool and so we can use it to restrain and shape developers' plans for the benefit of the village. Without the Neighbourhood Plan, we have no such tool. No one can promise a replacement Neighbourhood Plan, even less a better Neighbourhood Plan.

So I'll be voting YES on Thursday 16 July.

I hope we all do.

Martin Bygate, Townside

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