Welcome to the Godstone Parish Neighbourhood Plan website. Since Godstone Parish Neighbourhood Plan is quite a mouthful, we tend to refer to it as the GPNP. The GPNP is a Parish Council initiative that is being developed by local volunteers on their behalf. The Steering Group is made up of volunteers including members of the public and parish councillors. So what is it all about?
Neighbourhood Plans are increasingly important tools in the planning process. Planning for development is a complex process that involves rules and guidance from areas such as the National Planning Policy Framework and the Planning Policy Guidance. It also involves policy decided by the district – in our case the Tandridge District Council – who make decisions as to whether to grant planning permission for a particular development, or not.
Development might be something as simple as a small house extension or a new sign for a business, or a much more involved development of a number of new houses. Until the introduction of the Localism Act 2011, and now the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, local communities had no say in what would be developed in their community, or where, or how it might be developed, or even if it met the local need. Neighbourhood Plans change that.
A Neighbourhood Plan gives a community the opportunity to develop policies that must be taken into account when the district council makes planning decisions. The local planning authority, in our case Tandridge District Council, must take into account the policies that are adopted as part of the Neighbourhood Plan by law. Failure to do so would leave them open to a legal challenge that a particular development might be unlawful.
Neighbourhood Plans don’t just look at housing – although this is a very important element of the plan – they take a much wider view on the planning process. A decision to grant planning permission for a new housing development, for example, must take into account whether the infrastructure exists to support it (healthcare facilities, schools, etc.), it must take into account transport (roads, rail, bus routes), it must take into account business and employment (is there anywhere for residents of new properties to work, will they have to commute out of the area in order to work), it must consider leisure (is there anywhere for people to go to exercise or get some fresh air, what about places for children to play, are there facilities to support leisure activities), and finally, will the proposed housing meet the needs of local people, or is it anticipated that it will be occupied by new people to the area.
The GPNP will look at all areas that must be considered and will develop policies that support the needs of the community, of the Parish of Godstone, at a more focused and local level. District councils cannot have as intimate knowledge of a particular area as those that live in it and this is why a Neighbourhood Plan is so important.
There is one really important point to note – the Godstone Parish Neighbourhood Plan is not the same thing as the Local Plan which is currently (2017) being drafted by Tandridge District Council. The Local Plan is a document that is being drafted by Tandridge District Council that they hope will set planning policy for the district for the next 15 years. It is not a document that takes into account the needs of the community at a granular level. The two documents will sit side by side in the planning process and both will have equal consideration in decisions made.
If you would like to get involved in the drafting of the GPNP and are interested in joining any of the groups looking at specific areas, you can make contract through the contact page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.