Those of us who volunteered in 2017 to join a Steering Group to help the three local parishes produce this Neighbourhood Plan did so because we felt great affection for the area in which we live, whether we were born here or are one of the many who have chosen to live here because of its’ unique and special mixture of qualities.
As we started to think about the Neighbourhood Plan process, we could see that the beauty of the location and the relative remoteness from major transport links were both the reason for the area having remained so attractive, but also the major obstacles to the Neighbourhood Plan area, and Kingsbridge town in particular, being able to sustain itself commercially and as a rounded community in the longer term.
Finding ways to help our area to respond to commercial digital advances and climate change issues with minimum harm to the environment, in a landscape which presents significant technical development complications, and at a time of public expenditure constraint, is the challenge for all who live and work here. Fortunately for the Steering Group the significant number of residents and businesses who completed our household questionnaire, and the local organisations and individuals with specialist expertise who helped us analyse the questionnaire responses, have largely agreed with the feelings of the original volunteer group. This broad consensus has made our job simpler and provided a firm basis for formulating this plan.
The planning priorities, and the order of those priorities, have been drawn directly from this process. Whilst the three parish councils are sponsors of the process, and all wanted to be involved, it is local people’s views and aspirations which must drive the initial analysis and direction of a Neighbourhood Plan.
In our area the timing is also an important factor. The take up of the opportunity to write a Neighbourhood Plan has gathered pace slowly since it was offered in the legislation in 2011. It is not an easy process. But this has accelerated of late, especially in the West Country, as the implications of the affordable housing shortage and transport and community infrastructure shortcomings have started to impact on residents and commercial life more visibly. In south west Devon the number of Neighbourhood Plans in progress or completed has reached a critical mass such that District Council planning authorities are now becoming reliant on this very local level of planning policy to help manage the complex development environment.
The production of the 2014 – 2034 Joint Local Plan by South Hams, West Devon and Plymouth local planning authorities has focused minds further. Under national policy Local Neighbourhood Plans become part of the planning process once approved and allow a real ground level influence on what development is needed and what gets built. With the Joint Local Plan finally adopted in 2019 now is a good time to add our policies to it to help shape land use, housing, transport and community facilities for the next fourteen years and lay the foundations for the longer term.
Whilst establishing a planning framework for local development, the policies in the plan will not automatically generate the developments we all support. However, they will provide a clearer guide for private landowners and developers about what is required locally, and what plans might be approved, for example in terms of new housing genuinely affordable by local people earning typical local salaries. They will also enable South Hams District Council planning officers to be clearer with planning applicants about what conditions will need to be met for plans to be acceptable.
Some policies are also aimed at supporting local authorities and other community organisations in safeguarding and developing desirable community buildings and transport facilities like sports bases, public access to the water or safe cycle and footpaths. Other policies provide permanent protection to valued views, green spaces and historic parts of built up areas.
So, this document does not provide a magic answer to long standing development problems, but it is one with considerable potential influence for good in some tricky areas of community life. I commend it to all readers and encourage those who are able to vote to support it to do so when the time comes.
Chair, Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group.
Steering Group members
|Richard Benton (Chairman)||Steve Arblaster (Community Consultation)|
|Lis Smith (Secretary)||Debbie Board|
|Richard Smith (Treasurer)||Brenda Burnside (Publicity)|
|Cllr. Anne Balkwill (KTC)||Shelley Castle|
|Cllr. Martina Edmonds (KTC)||Norman Dilley|
|Martin Johnson (Town Clerk)||Rosemary Dunstan|
|Cllr. Roger Hind (Churchstow PC)||Robin Griffin (KTC rep)|
|Cllr. Lee Johnson (Churchstow PC)||John Kinch (Data research and analysis)|
|Sue Kinch (Web liaison)|
|Geoffrey Rossetti (West Alvington PC rep)||Peter Sandover (Advisor)|
|John Walster (West Alvington PC rep)||Grenville Taylor|