Why are we producing a Neighbourhood Plan in the first place?
1.1 Some time ago, the Parish Council took the decision to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan in order to give those who live in the Parish more say over how our community evolves. Without a Plan in place, the Parish Council can make recommendations to the two Authorities who look after our interests (West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) and the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA)) but our input is just that; a recommendation on how they should act. With an approved Neighbourhood Plan in place, these Authorities are obliged to give material weight to the policies in the Plan. In short, we gain more say over aspects such as where any new housing might be built or where other development might, or might not take place. The Plan also serves to set out some aspirations; things we would like to see improved (such as access to faster broadband) and thereby gives us a basis to campaign and lobby for such services, even if not all of these are within the Local Authorities’ remit to provide.
So how far have we got?
1.2 During the last Government (2011-2015) the Localism Act introduced Neigh-bourhood Planning into the hierarchy of spatial planning in England, giving communities the right to shape their future development at a local level. In July 2014, Buckland Monachorum Parish Council applied to both WDBC and DNPA to nominate the land area of the Parish as a Neighbourhood Planning boundary. This was approved in October 2014 and the process of drawing up the Neighbourhood Plan began. A ‘diary’ of activity since the production of the Plan started showing how we have consulted is at Annex A in the 'Download' section.
1.3 This draft plan has been produced by a Neighbourhood Planning Steering Group (NPSG), all of whom are residents and represent each of the five villages in the parish. The group also includes a number of Parish Council members and Officers from WDBC and DNPA have also contributed to the plan’s production. Membership of the NPSG is shown at the 'Team' section of the website and their terms of reference is at Annex B in the 'Download' section. The Draft Plan is being copied to many statutory bodies (such as the Local Authorities, the Environment Agency, the Highways Authority etc) and made publically available to residents of the Parish for six weeks and once comments on this draft have been received and, if necessary, incorporated into the Plan, it will be updated to form the final version which will be formally submitted to both Authorities. Once any comments they may have have been considered, the Plan will be the subject of a local referendum. If this is successful (with more than 51% of those expressing a view in favour of the Plan), the Buckland Monachorum Neighbourhood Plan will be 'made' and have equal weight to the Borough Council’s Local Plan and be the starting point for deciding where development should take place and the type and quality of that development. It’s management will be the responsibility of the Parish Council.
2.1 The Neighbourhood Plan aims to make the Parish of Buckland Monachorum an even better place to be, now and for future generations. It enables the community to have a say on the type of development that takes place and influence the quality and location of that development, ensuring that change brings with it local benefit.
2.2 It will cover a 20 year time period to coincide with the Local Authority’s Local Plan (2014 -2034) and progress on it’s implementation will be regularly reported to those living in the parish by the Parish Council.
Current management of the Parish
2.3 Buckland Monachorum Parish has been a continuous Parish Council for over 120 years and has a record of sound stewardship of those aspects best summarised as ‘caring for the community it serves’. Over the years the Parish Council has liaised well with its twin Authorities (WDBC and (DNPA) but has, on occasions, felt that the views of those living in the Parish were not always well understood by those Authorities. Furthermore, the Parish Council had no hard guidance from residents on the way they wanted the parish managed. Because the Neighbourhood Planning is based on evidence gained by local consultation and questionnaires together with specific research and national and regional trends, it provides an opportunity for the community to have a real say over local decision making, to achieve its long-standing goals through the planning system and address the challenges and opportunities facing the future vitality of the parish. Even before it is passed, Local Authority decision makers already consider it to be an important reference and are prepared to give it weight as a material consideration in any development planning decisions. When the Plan is made it will have equal weight to the local plan in the determination of planning applications.
Selecting the boundary of the Plan
2.4 Early on as the Plan was being discussed, a decision on the most appropriate boundary of the Plan needed to be made. The choice was whether to draw the boundary around the whole Parish or to choose the area within the Parish which was within WDBC’s authority (and exclude that within DNPA's authority). For issues such as planning, the DNPA is the approving authority for the areas of the Parish that lies within the park and WDBC is the approving authority for those areas which fall outside the Park. After some thought it was considered better to include the whole Parish for which the Parish Council has responsibility at the risk that the Plan would be more difficult to write as it would need to meet obligations of two different Authorities.
Location and Landscape Character
2.5 The Parish of Buckland Monachorum, and therefore the boundary of the Neighbourhood Plan, is situated in West Devon, 10 miles from the City of Plymouth to the South and 6 miles from the Market Town of Tavistock to the West and includes the villages of Yelverton, Crapstone, Milton Combe, Clearbrook and Buckland Monachorum. The Parish straddles the boundary of the Dartmoor National Park with most of Yelverton and the village of Clearbrook inside the Park and the remaining villages within the Borough of West Devon but outside of the the National Park.
2.6 The landscape is characterised (by the Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Nat-ural Beauty (TVAONB) in which the area of the Parish outside of the National Park lies) as ‘a rare valley and water landscape based around an unspoilt estuary, a unique wildlife resource and a landscape of distinctive heritage; a gentle rolling pastoral landscape separating the tor covered moor of Dartmoor from the coastal area of the South West.’
2.7 Landscape character is an important consideration when considering potential development and landscape character assessments are conducted whenever sites are being considered for significant development. Those currently available are located in WDBC’s Landscape Character Assessment for proposed development sites im-pacting on the TVAONB dated February 2015, a copy of which is at Annex C in the 'Download' section and further, more detailed information is available from Natural England’s website (Landscape Character 150 & 151); for a link to this site, see the 'Directory Section.