Those of us who volunteered in 2018 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, and were concerned for its future, whether we were born here or are one of the many who have chosen to live here because of its’ unique mixture of qualities.
The two village parishes are immediate neighbours of Kingsbridge town, and characteristic of the nineteen rural parishes which make up the Kingsbridge market town hub area identified by the District and County councils. They were keen to produce a Neighbourhood Plan and welcomed the offer to join the Steering Group and contribute to the shared voluntary resource, to achieve this substantial task. The Group’s work has confirmed the many shared issues and interdependencies that link the three areas and eased the task of assembling this complex document.
As we started to think about the Neighbourhood Plan process, we realised that the beauty of the location combined with the relative remoteness from major transport links were the reason for the area having remained so attractive. But it was also clear that they were major obstacles to the Neighbourhood Plan area, and Kingsbridge town in particular, being able to sustain itself and its surrounding rural area commercially in the longer term. It is clear from our subsequent survey that many residents value this last point.
Finding ways to help our area to respond to the growing opportunities and challenges of the online world and to 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 largely agreed on the priorities for the plan. The local organisations and individuals with specialist expertise who helped us analyse the questionnaire responses, and Steering Group members themselves, have also supported this consensus. This has made our job simpler in formulating this plan. Whilst the Town Council and the two parish councils are sponsors of the process, and were directly involved, it is local people’s views and aspirations which must drive the Neighbourhood Plan, so we have a firm basis for the plan as proposed.
Several local factors have confirmed the need to get a plan completed swiftly. The implications of the long-term affordable housing shortage, and transport and community infrastructure shortcomings, have started to impact on resident’s and commercial life more severely of late. Under national policy Neighbourhood Plans become an integral part of the local plan process and once adopted allow a real ground level influence on defining what development is needed and what gets built. So now is the right time for our policies to help shape land use, housing, transport and community facilities for the next fourteen years and lay the foundations for the longer term.
In 2020 the community pressures resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic emphasised further some of the issues we had already identified and added some more around provision of health and social support services. In particular the housing needs of key workers, many of whom earn salaries at or below the regional average, have been thrown into stark relief. Policies to address these issues have been firmed up or added to the plan as a result.
Readers should remember that the policies in a plan of this nature will not automatically generate the developments we all support. However, they will provide a clearer guide for the local authorities, private landowners and developers about what is required locally, and what plans might be approved. They will also enable South Hams District Council planning officers to be clearer with planning applicants on conditions that 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 such as 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.
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 eligible to support its adoption to do so when the time comes to vote.
I must finish by thanking the many people who have had a hand in producing the plan, and especially the small core group who have put in so much work over a long period to make it happen.
Chair, Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. Autumn 2020.
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|