Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Launceston Town Council says no to neighbourhood plan

Launceston Town Council tonight voted against moving forward with a neighbourhood plan. I regret that decision which I believe was taken following incorrect assertions and which will leave our town prey to developers.

A neighbourhood plan is a locally devised and legally enforceable document which allows a community to decide what sort of development it wants to see and where that development should go. There isn't complete freedom of decision. The neighbourhood plan has to be 'in conformity' with the Cornwall-wide Local Plan which, in turn, has to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework. Both of these higher documents state that there will be development in all communities, so a neighbourhood plan cannot say 'no building'.

But, for all the restrictions, a neighbourhood plan is the best chance of protecting our town against over-development or building in the wrong place. The people of Launceston have said that we want to see new building, but only where it is sustainable.

Part of the problem is that our town boundaries are very close to the current edge of the built up area. So, in an ideal scenario, the town council would work with neighbouring parishes - Lawhitton, South Petherwin, St Stephens and St Thomas - on a combined plan. But (rightly) the town council cannot force those parishes to work with us and none have indicated they want to. But I still think it is right that we should move forward to do whatever we can to protect our town and encourage building in the right places not the wrong ones.

Unfortunately, there were those at tonight's meeting who believe that Cornwall Council will produce a binding document as good as a locally produced plan. That's not the case and so I fear that tonight's vote will simply leave the town open to more applications like the one at Upper Chapel which was allowed at appeal - in the main - because there was no local or neighbourhood plan to stop it.

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