When news happens, text KENEWS and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Upper Eden parishes voted 'Yes' for neighbourhood development plan
UPPER Eden residents made history when they voted overwhelmingly in favour of creating their own neighbourhood development plan.
Backed by a 90 per cent ‘yes’ vote from the electorate of Kirkby Stephen, Brough, and 15 surrounding parishes, members of the group who championed the process said they were committed to working with district council planners to put their ideas into practice.
The Upper Eden Neighbourhood Development Plan was designed to pick up on areas of planning law that parishes highlighted as weaknesses and where the system seemed unfair.
These include making it easier for local people to self-build affordable homes, for farmers to provide more housing for their family or business needs, and to help older people find suitable properties.
And fundamentally it gives much greater weight to the views of the parishes keen to preserve the character of their community.
Tom Woof, chairman of the Upper Eden Community Plan Steering Group, said the document, which was almost two years in the making, was not a ‘NIMBY’s charter’, but pro-development. The referendum has given it equal weighting to other planning documents, and in cases of non-strategy it takes precedence.
He said the new policies would allow farmers to change the use of buildings for accommodation and address an anomaly in housing density.
He said where the view of parish councils was previously a ‘material consideration’, and in practice were often overlooked, the views of locals would earn ‘significant weight’.
Alex Birtles from Kirkby Stephen Town Council explained some ways the plan could help locals in a practical way.
“We found in Kirkby Stephen that if you had a proposal for a fairly large scale development that seemed like an overdevelopment and out of proportion we were told that this is what we were stuck with.
“Now parishes can have more influence over developments being in-keeping with the town’s character. Another big improvement is addressing how difficult it was under the regime to justify self-build affordable houses to planners which will now be allowed where a need and an opportunity can be proved.”
Pat Jones from Brough Parish Council said planners were ‘understandably nervous’ but they would work together to set out the guidelines going forward.
“Having planning minister Nick Boles and communities minister Don Foster up here brought the issue to the fore for a lot of people and we were very happy with the turnout.”
The plan will be incorporated by Eden District Council officially on April 11.
Hundreds of councils nationwide are set to follow in the footsteps of trailblazing Upper Eden with plans in the pipeline.