Saturday, 24 September 2016

Neighbourhood Plan - response

Public consultation

I refer back to my blog about the consultation on the draft Neighbourhood Plan. I have now completed and returned my form, supporting every policy. These were my additional comments:

General Comment
This Neighbourhood Plan is very important for the future development of our village, as it will attain the same legal status as the Local Plan once it has been adopted. It will then form part of the statutory development plan under which all planning permissions must be determined.

Even before its formal adoption, this Neighbourhood Plan may be a material consideration in any planning application. Decision makers should respect any evidence of local support for an emerging plan and give weight and consideration to its policies when considering planning applications.

As such this Neighbourhood Plan is a valuable document for the local community.

Policy 1
Nocton village has to date supported two major housing developments – one by Persimmon Homes (circa 25 properties) and the other by Peter Sowerby Homes (circa 80 properties). The final phase of the Sowerby estate is actually still under construction with many still unsold and the access roads remain incomplete and unfinished.

Added to the above, are the numerous minor builds throughout the village, either individual plots or low number developments e.g. Wray’s Yard (5 properties), Manor Court (10 properties), Wellhead Lane (4 properties).

In fact, Nocton village has already exceeded the quota for additional housing as outlined in the draft Central Lincolnshire Local Plan (2012 – 2036), so much weight should be given by planning officers for a very limited supply for the remaining period.

This is even more pertinent, given that the village still has a contribution to make to the housing stock via the exception of an ‘enabling development’ at Nocton Hall and the brownfield RAF Hospital site.

Policy 2
Nocton village is nestled in the landscape and distinguished by its predomination of mature trees, many of which are under protection orders. The village has generally an open character to it, although in certain locations properties are massed together.

Many properties are of the mellow Lincolnshire limestone with red-pantile roofing and of two-storey construction. The green spaces and unique buildings contribute strongly to the special character and appearance of the ex-estate village. Hedges and stone walls form many boundaries.

It is this very character that residents are endeavouring to protect and maintain.

Policy 3
For years Nocton Hall was the focal point of the village and the estate, the sort of property everyone wanted as their home, but few could have afforded to buy or maintain. Many local residents worked within its confines when it was part of RAF Nocton Hospital and it is held in great affection by the community.

Since the property was sold in year 2000, the village has witnessed the gradual deterioration and dereliction of this once fine building. There have been many occasions when the owners, Leda Properties and North Kesteven District Council could have reached an amicable resolution to prevent its ruination, but all to no avail. It is now at a critical phase of its life where it may be lost forever.

Situated as it is at the centre of Nocton village, and with its extensive history, it is high time a solution was found to save this building from falling down completely. Although many feel it is now too late and that the village has already contributed sufficiently to the housing quota required, they are prepared to accept a limited ‘enabling development’ on the RAF Hospital site to salvage what is left of this much-loved heritage building.

If all interested parties do not work together to seek an acceptable solution for Nocton Hall and its surroundings now, I fear it will remain a blot in the heart of the village, with the eventual result of it being demolished.

Policy 4
Along with the many trees defining Nocton, the open green spaces of Nocton village and easy access to the surrounding country estate are much enjoyed by many residents and visitors alike. Indeed, it can be argued that these are major reasons why people come to live in this fine village.

It is interesting to study the consultative paper “Local action on health inequalities – Improving access to green spaces” published by Public Health England [Publication Gateway No: 2014334]. This formed part of the Health Equity Evidence Review in September 2014 and the conclusion was that “… access to and use of green space are associated with a range of positive health outcomes that can help reduce inequalities in health.”

There is no better explanation as to why green space in a community should be maintained.

Policy 5
As per Policy 4 comment.

Policy 6
Whilst renewables are to be welcomed, there are limits of acceptance.

We have not only seen widespread opposition to a proposed large-scale wind farm on Nocton Fen, there was also a nationally-supported campaign against an 8,000 cow intensive dairy planned for Nocton Heath. Both applications were eventually withdrawn.

Nocton Fen now has a bio-digestion facility, producing energy for the grid. This is owned by Beeswax Farming as part of its business activities managing Nocton Estate. This is limited to non-animal waste products and as such is supported by the local community. Clearly, residents are content with small-scale energy production, either though solar, wind or bio… and this should be promoted.

Turning to the IT infrastructure of our village. There has been strong lobbying of BT and BT Openreach to install fibre broadband to Nocton. OnLincolnshire have been very supportive of this drive through their BDUK Project.

We are now weeks away from the latest cabinet being enabled, to allow residents to apply for superfast broadband. However, a few properties will remain on ‘legacy lines’, unable to get this faster service. These are currently subject to a ‘Change Request’ to have the remaining lines re-routed to the new cabinet. We must ensure this extra work is seen through to completion, in order for all residents to benefit from this improved telecommunications service.

Policy 7
Despite many attempts by the Parish Council to seek solutions to the heavy traffic and heavy goods flow through Nocton village, Lincolnshire Highways appear to have thwarted every suggestion.

The community have suggested improved signage, speed restrictions, weight restrictions, traffic calming measures, raised kerbing to avoid HGV mounting the footway on the blind 90-degree bends, all to no avail. Explanations have ranged from excessive cost to reduced budgets, risk factors and lack of enforceability.

Many adjacent footways to the highway through Nocton village are narrow and with the close proximity to heavy and large vehicles, pedestrians feel very vulnerable when walking from A to B. All opportunities should be explored to improve life for cyclists and pedestrians through the village.

Policy 8
The problem that is Nocton Hall and the old RAF Hospital site has already been highlighted under Policy 3.

There is still an opportunity to create a tourist facility with an innovative partnership arrangement, placed as it is on the route of the Spires and Steeples trail. Nocton Hall, the estate and the village has a rich and vibrant history that could be brought to life through information boards and some limited renovation of the hall and grounds.

The Options Appraisal highlights the preferred approach of stabilising the ruin, with potential to renovate the service wing, which is still recoverable even now. This could have a multitude of uses as a visitor/heritage centre; café/restaurant/licensed premises; meeting room or rental accommodation.

With enough foresight and commitment from relevant partners, this business opportunity could be dove-tailed into the ‘enabling development’ of the old RAF Hospital site to enhance the very centre of Nocton.

It can be done – one only has to look at other projects that have created outstanding results.

Policy 9
See comments outlined at Policy 8.

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