Friday, 04 December 2020

Volunteers given until 2017 to create development plan

A REFERENDUM on Watlington’s neighbourhood plan may not be held until October 2017 — two years

A REFERENDUM on Watlington’s neighbourhood plan may not be held until October 2017 — two years later than first planned.

The news was revealed by parish council chairman Ian Hill who said the process would now be led by a community forum.

It is the latest twist over the town’s neighbourhood plan following a delay of several months.

Earlier this year it was revealed that a September 30 referendum date would not be met.

Then at the town’s annual meeting it was claimed that three former parish councillors who resigned from the group guiding the plan were placed under “enormous pressure” by residents of the Marlbrook estate.

Rhian Woods, Nick Hancock and Neil Boddington said they no longer wanted to be on the council because of what they claimed was “uncertainty” over the plan and the number of new houses being allocated to Watlington.

Now the council has formed an interim steering committee that will monitor the forum after the community expressed a wish to continue with the plan.

It is made up of Councillor Hill and fellow councillors Tom Bindoff, Terry Jackson and Jeremy Bell and met for the first time last night (Thursday).

A date will be set to launch the forum and a public meeting will be held to seek volunteers.

Cllr Hill said: “Members of the forum will essentially take a lead in preparing the work on the plan.

“We set up a steering committee within the council to provide a link with that group and to essentially be the front for any formal negotiations.

“By making it open to absolutely everybody and saying ‘this is your chance to get involved’ it makes it impossible in the future to say ‘we weren’t involved, we weren’t part of it’.

“The sooner the council can get that group going, the sooner we can make progress.”

Letters will be sent to every household in the parish informing residents of the meeting, which will probably be held next month.

A full steering committee will be appointed at the next full council meeting.

Cllr Hill explained: “Essentially it’s taking the place of the core committee. That was very much hands-on but this is going to have more of a monitoring role than a doing role.”

Four people from the Marlbrook estate — Mr Bell, Mrs Jackson, Jo Read and Jane Bryant — were elected to the council in May. This came two months after about 80 residents of the estate attended a public meeting to complain that they had not been properly consulted on the neighbourhood plan.

Cllr Hill said he was “very concerned” that six months had passed without any progress being made.

“That’s a worry because there’s obviously pressure to get the plan in place as soon as possible,” he said.

“We want to get everything ready for a referendum probably by October 2017 at the latest. That then sets a fairly generous timescale for getting it done.

“I’d be very disappointed if we struggle to get enough people to get the forum going.”

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