Neighbourhood plan - everything you need to know

A MAJOR overhaul of the way planning decisions are made could be on its way to Ripley - if townsfolk vote to take on a set of radical new proposals.

People of Ripley could go to the polls in 2012 as part of a referendum on proposals to draw-up a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’.

The move would see future housing, industrial and retail sites drawn up by a neighbourhood forum of 21 or more people.

In Ripley and its surrounding villages the Neighbourhood Plan would replace the Local Plan devised by Amber Valley Borough Council (AVBC), which sets out where developers can and cannot build in the borough.

Announcing the scheme, leader of Ripley Town Council Steve Freeborn said it would give the public more say on what gets built in the town - and where.

He added: “This move is trying to connect planning policy with the people.”

Neighbourhood plans were introduced into law in November under the Localism Act. A public meeting is to be held in the town in February to discuss the proposals.

The town council is holding a meeting on Tuesday, February 7, at Ripley Town Hall, 7pm, to consult with the public about the plans.

The event is being called the Neighbourhood Forum, and anyone from the township is welcome to attend. The authority has set aside £20,000 from its yearly budget to help establish a neighbourhood forum, which would consist of at least 21 members made up of residents, businesses, investors and developers.

While the members will be in charge of drawing up a development vision for the area - the plan must conform with national policy and AVBC’s development plan for the area.

The town must still make sure enough new homes are built in the area to keep up with regional housing targets.

Currently the Amber Valley area is only meeting eight per cent of its affordable new housing needs, according to national campaigning group the Countryside Alliance.

But at December’s Ripley Town Council meeting, the parish authority voted unanimously to set the Neighbourhood Plan wheels in motion.

Speaking at the meeting cllr Ron Ashton said: “I welcome this. People should be in charge of their local area, I hope this plan develops as much as we hope it will. It’s a great opportunity.”

Cllr Charles Cutting added: “It’s good to be involved with the local community, I think it’s a great idea and it needs to get off the ground as soon as possible.”

Under the Localism Act, AVBC will be required to assist the town council in setting up the neighbourhood forum, even though the authority is currently in the process of drawing up its own Local Plan.

Amber Valley Borough councillor Liz Bowley said: “I will certainly welcome the Neighbourhood Plan.

“I think there will be benefits for the people we serve , and we need to work together to make it work for them.”