Tuesday, 01 December 2020

Village plan in doubt due to uncertainty

THE future of Watlington’s neighbourhood plan is in doubt as the new parish council considers whether

THE future of Watlington’s neighbourhood plan is in doubt as the new parish council considers whether to resurrect the committee responsible for it.

Earlier this month three members of the parish council’s neighbourhood plan core committee quit because of “uncertainty” over the plan.

Rhian Woods, Neil Boddington and Nick Hancock then urged people not to vote for them in the parish council elections.

They said they no longer want to serve but were unable to withdraw their candidacies in time. None was elected.

Now the issue is likely to be on the agenda of the annual parish meeting in July.

Chairman Ian Hill, who was re-elected on May 7, said the three departed councillors’ views was that any further work on the neighbourhood plan would be “unsound and a waste of public resources” in view of the “continuing uncertainty” over the number of new homes that Watlington would be required to accommodate.

He continued: “As chairman, I do not believe that the council can ignore such a view expressed by those who have led the work on the project.

“My personal view, which I emphasise is not the view of the either the outgoing council or the newly elected council, is that we should continue work on the plan, but with the clear aim that although we are planning for 79 houses we will need to make allowance for up to twice that number.

“My view is that, at very least, we need to produce a full report and analysis of the consultation on visions, objectives and options that was completed a few months ago to ensure that the work that has been done is not lost.”

Councillor Hill said he hoped a recommendation would be made to the council’s meeting in July on whether to proceed with the plan.

He explained: “The annual meeting of the parish, which gives the public an opportunity to express their views, will take place shortly before the July full council meeting and could provide valuable input to any decision.”

He said a document and suggestions should be presented to residents at that meeting.

Councillor Tony Williamson said: “It seems to me that the neighbourhood plan is sufficiently important, and of importance to the whole community, that it would be sensible if it was the central theme of the annual parish meeting.”

But Councillor Bob West said exhibitions about the plan and public consultation had already taken place.

He added: “You can’t legislate for people who don’t want to know.”

Councillor Jo Read responded: “But you can impress with a slip through the door how important it is.”

Councillor Tom Bindoff pointed out there had been a much better response to the plan in Chalgrove.

In their resignation statement, Mrs Woods, Mr Boddington and Mr Hancock said: “The number of houses allocated will almost certainly be greater than the current 79 and quite probably substantially more.

“This level of uncertainty means that the basis for the Watlington neighbourhood plan at present seems unsound and further resource would be expended at considerable risk.

“The concept of neighbourhood planning is an excellent initiative, however it must now be given over to the new council to determine the way forward.”

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