Local planning in the Wokingham Borough reached a significant milestone on 29 September, when Wokingham Borough Council’s decision-making executive accepted the report of the independent examination into the Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan.
This means a referendum will take place on 8 December to determine whether the Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan should be adopted. If adopted, it would form part of the borough-wide development plan and would carry significant weight in the determination of planning applications in or affecting Shinfield Parish.
This is the first neighbourhood plan in the Wokingham Borough. Neighbourhood plans are prepared by town or parish councils, or neighbourhood forums. The plan can allow the community to have greater influence over development in its area.
Process to develop the Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan
The process to develop the Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan began in May 2012 with the area being formally designated a neighbourhood area in November 2012. Significant work was carried out, running workshops and meetings to develop policies and ideas, which culminated in an initial draft plan which was sent to every household in the parish in May 2015.
Feedback from the initial plan was incorporated into the examination version of the plan, which was submitted to Wokingham Borough Council in March 2016. A six-week consultation followed before being presented to an independent examiner in July. After Shinfield Parish and Wokingham Borough officers agreed some amendments following the examination, the decision-making executive accepted the plan tonight.
The plan contains a number of policies including housing, transport, access, the natural environment, community and recreation, and business and commercial development.
Advising and supporting
Cllr Mark Ashwell, executive member for planning and regeneration, said: "We have been advising and supporting Shinfield Parish Council since 2012, and a lot of hard work has gone into this plan.
"Neighbourhood planning is one of the powers introduced by the Localism Act and allows communities to develop a shared vision for their local area and shape the development and growth within it. Although national and local strategic priorities still have to be followed, it allows local communities to have more say on what development goes where and what the area would look like."
Chairman of Shinfield Parish Council Cllr Peter Hughes said: "Shinfield Parish Council is indebted to all the volunteers who have worked so hard to deliver this plan, and all the residents who have answered surveys, attended meetings and workshops and given their time and their views to help bring this plan to fruition."
People living in Shinfield Parish who are registered to vote in local elections are entitled to vote in the referendum, which will be conducted following similar procedures to those used at local government elections.
If more than 50 per cent of people voting in the referendum support the plan, then the local planning authority must formally adopt it.
The Electoral Register is currently being updated and all properties have been sent a household enquiry form to complete and return to indicate who is currently living in the property. Anyone not shown on the form needs to register. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to go online to the national Register to Vote website. The new electoral register will be published on 1 December, one week before the planned Referendum.
Cllr Ashwell added: "This is the ideal time to register to ensure you could vote in the Shinfield Parish Plan Referendum and it only takes two minutes to register online."