Creating a Neighbourhood Plan involves a long and complicated journey….
Early in 2014 a Steering Group was set up to start the process of preparing a Community Neighbourhood Plan, with the formal support of Liskeard Town Council as the facilitator and Qualifying Body. After a six-week consultation period, the ‘Designated Area’ for the Plan was agreed by Cornwall Council (the Local Planning Authority) in April 2014, following the boundary of Liskeard parish.
During the spring of 2014 the Steering Group developed an Engagement Strategy, with the aim being to reach out and include all our community, not expecting them to just come to us. A suitable logo design to portray the ‘inclusiveness’ and ‘journey’ aspects of the plan was developed, and a website created along with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Work started on planning publicity and community engagement activities. An initial scoping exercise was carried out at two community events to test the local appetite for doing a plan, by asking people some open questions about ‘likes’, ‘dislikes’ and ‘thoughts about the future’ of Liskeard.
In time for Easter a leaflet explaining what a Neighbourhood Plan is, and how it can benefit the community, was hand-delivered to all households.
During May there was an intense period of publicity including local press and radio, social media, posters, and flyers, leading up to a community Exhibition and Engagement Day on the 29th May.
A survey was included in the Town Crier magazine, which was also personally distributed throughout the neighbourhood plan area, with doorstep conversations where possible. A Survey Monkey questionnaire was included on the website, and a shorter paper version set up for quick responses at outreach events.
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group continued to meet and worked on maximizing contact with all possible local groups, which occurred throughout the summer with a major outreach programme of visits, talks and a travelling exhibition to many community groups and local meeting places, including church groups, chamber of commerce, Stuart House, cafes, one-stop shop, mother and toddler groups, film club, Community Network panel, Rotary club, school fetes, and Liskeard Community College, Town Forum, Caradon heritage legacy group, Town Carnival, neighbouring parish centres, Liskerrett centre, special needs units, later living and residential care homes.
Further major engagement occurred at the Liskeard show, a day at Morrisons, and an early morning business breakfast for local employers (this involved hand delivered invitations to the three major business parks).
During the summer of 2014 grant aid of £4,250 was sought and awarded towards the costs of preparing the Plan by Locality under the My Community Rights Programme. In July a Volunteer Evening was held to introduce more community volunteers into the team.
In early autumn 2014, Steering Group members entered hundreds of raw survey comments into spreadsheets, which were then analysed by Plymouth University Graduate school of Management, and summarized in a formal written report, in time for two major events at the end of the year.
The first of these was another evening Volunteers Workshop held in November 2014 to encourage further local volunteers to get involved in progressing the plan in the directions suggested by the community engagement. The second, which utilised some grant funding, was an all-day Information and Training Workshop held in December 2014, on Planning, Design, and Sustainability. It was led by Cornwall Rural Community Charity (CRCC) and open to the Steering Group, councillors and community volunteers.
Late in autumn of 2014 the Evidence Base for the Plan was first created, involving a survey and analysis of all the policy and planning documents that related to Liskeard (supported by CRCC).
Working Groups were set up in December 2014 and January 2015, around the four priority areas established by the community feedback – namely, Employment and training (A place to work & learn), Housing (A place to live), Town centre (A place to meet, shop, and do business), and Open space and leisure (A place to relax and enjoy).
The Working Groups worked through the next year following a brief, setting out the tasks required, including research on data and demographics, previous documentation and reports, the developing Cornwall Local Plan, as well as the National Planning Policy Framework. The Groups included additional engagement with stakeholders in small meetings and workshops, and carried out survey work around the town.
During the summer of 2015 further grant aid of £5,950 was sought and awarded towards the costs of preparing the Plan by Locality under the My Community Rights Programme.
Each Working group prepared a draft report of their findings, proposing aims and objectives and ideas for future policies for the planning of Liskeard. This intensive work stretched through to early summer, coinciding with progress news in the Town Crier and at the Liskeard Show, and concluding with a big ‘visioning’ workshop at the end of July 2015 attended by working group volunteers and councillors. The purpose was to bring the work of the groups together, review various options for the future of Liskeard and agree the strategy going forward. The workshop was led by a professional facilitator, who highlighted areas of agreement and, through discussion, some possible cross-cutting topics were agreed, that needed further work. These centered around the potential development of the Cattle market site, and devolution of redundant Cornwall Council properties.
This extra work was completed in early autumn, with a review of alternative uses for Cornwall buildings (such as an innovation hub), and input to the newly formed Cornwall Council Cattle Market project group of a briefing document, incorporating ideas from the emerging neighbourhood plan (subsequently there has been continuing representation from the NP team at the CC cattle market meetings).
There followed a period of focused work to bring all the work together, understand the process going forward, particularly around the procedure for writing policies, and the detailed setting out of plan documents. For all members of the team there was a steep learning curve to inform themselves of the processes involved, and this was helped by looking at other neighbourhood plans, Cornwall Council online toolkit, and material from support organisations like Locality, and Planning Aid.
The Steering Group finished the year in early December 2015, with an open meeting and invitation to all Town councillors to see the first drafts of the Working Group reports and be updated on progress. The council also approved the engagement of professional support for the Plan policy drafting activity, utilizing grant funding. Drafting and mapping of the Neighbourhood Plan was then able to commence.
During Spring 2016, because of substantial changes made to the Cornwall Local Plan, and following an in-depth review of the Working Group reports carried out by the Project Manager, it was clear that there was generally a need for further evidence and updating to make the material sufficiently robust. Some Working Groups, (notably housing), re-convening to do the extra work required.
During April and May 2016 discussions were held with Working Group chairs to finalise and sign off the additional material, after which Plan drafting work proceeded.
The Annual Town meeting and Mayor choosing in May 2016 both provided opportunity to engage with the public and councillors over where the plan had got to. Policies and the remainder of the information required, including justification and background evidence for the policies, as well as emerging projects were written into the draft document, and the whole was organized into a logical format.
During the summer a detailed Infrastructure Report was prepared, again with assistance from Working Group chairs where necessary, and following meetings to discuss the WRAP project outcome, a sustainability section for the plan was finalized.
The Steering Group re-convened in July and has since met several times to work on the final format and draft policies for the Neighbourhood Plan. The Working Groups were asked to check that the objectives they had suggested were effectively met through the policies now being proposed. Helpful ideas and amendments were received that assisted in shaping the final document. The working Groups were also tasked with carrying out a sustainability analysis, during August/September 2016, in preparation for the seeking of a Screening Opinion from Cornwall Council on whether a formal SEA was required.
The draft document was circulated to Working Groups and Town Councillors, and discussed formally at the Town Council Planning Committee on 11th October. This was followed by an informal feedback meeting with Cornwall Council officers. Amendments were made to the draft in the light of the comments received. A Town Council and Steering Group panel considered quotes for the design and print of the Plan, and this commenced in mid-October.
Plans for the Public engagement and consultation on the Draft document this autumn then seriously got underway. The Steering Group considered that it was very important to have an awareness-raising period, to inform and re-engage with the people of Liskeard, as a precursor to the statutory formal Regulation 14 six-week consultation period, which will last into the New Year 2017.
Posters, press releases, Facebook and Twitter, website update, invitations, display panels, and a summary lay-persons guide have all been prepared, by members of the Steering Group, leading up to Drop-in Days on the 22nd and 26th November. The Plan was put on formal ‘Reg 14’ Consultation in December 2016, with an extended closing date of 31st January 2017 to cover the holiday period.Share this...