Planning minister Nick Boles has seen first-hand how a community in Rugby is leading the way in neighbourhood planning.
The Coton Park estate, north of Brownsover, has a neighbourhood group that’s been adopted by the Government as a national pioneer in a scheme that’s part of the coalition’s flagship Localism Bill.
It means that eventually the group, called Coton Forward, will have a plan that holds the same status in law as the borough council’s core strategy – holding more influence than parish plans. It would mean the document would have to be considered in any future planning decision made on the estate.
Jill Simpson-Vince, chair of Coton Forward, said: “The project is something a lot of people who live here feel very excited about. There’s new ways of consulting and planning going on that could transform how people across Britain converse with local authorities. Some of the questionnaires we’ve send out have had a 63 per cent response rate, almost 600 houses, which is fantastic by anybody’s standards.
“We’ve also had a community event that involved children-only voting on exactly what play equipment they wanted at the local park – I don’t think anywhere else has done this and the idea was taken away by Mr Boles as an idea for best practise.
“We also have plans in place that could relieve parking and traffic issues where we are. They are the sort of minor issues that local authorities might not always pick up on.”
The Government has said that neighbourhood planning is central to its decentralisation, localism and Big Society agenda.
The Localism Bill sets out what neighbourhood planning is, and how it should work in practice. Through neighbourhood planning, the government says that communities will be able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built and have their say on what those new buildings should look like. Issues covered by the group include traffic and parking, parks, schools and community facilities such as doctors.
Mark Pawsey MP said: “It was a great pleasure to organise and host the Planning Minister’s visit to Rugby last month.
“This Government is giving power back to local people to decide what development happens in their area and I was delighted the Minister got to visit Coton Park Neighbourhood Forum. I know he was very impressed with the enthusiasm and determination of all involved with the Forum and I commend Jill Simpson-Vince for all the hard work she is doing for her community.”
The forum meets once a quarter and all residents and businesses based in Coton Park are eligible to join. If you wish to join, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.