Neighbourhood plan open day a big success

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The Beacon Neighbourhood Planning team which includes Ditchling Streat and Westmeston parishes, held an open day on Saturday November 14 in Ditchling Village Hall.

They have been working hard to gather and assess local evidence, and to produce draft policies with an aim to incorporate them into a neighbourhood plan to cover the development of the parishes for the next fifteen years.

It asked the residents of the parishes to consider the work of five “focus groups” who have been working to gather and assess the evidence (including the all important information residents gave in the household survey last year) and to produce draft policies from them.

Residents were asked to fill in a ‘Draft policy comment form which asks a series of broad question about the work of the five focus groups. These five Focus groups are Community infrastructure with six policies, Employment & Business with seven, Traffic & Transport with ten, Housing with seven, and Conservation with sixteen.

The whole process asks, are we heading in the right direction? This is important because the final neighbourhood plan will be used to assess all planning decisions affecting the future of the Beacon community. It asks what have we missed? Is there something we have completely overlooked or forgotten about, that is important to the villages?

Which policy is best? Sometimes there is more than one policy that can meet an objective, e.g. to reduce traffic. Sometimes two policies which both seem right can in fact conflict. Which policy should have priority and why?

The open day also asked the all important question, where do we want to put the fifteen plus dwellings we are being asked to find space for, under the South Downs National Park and Lewes District Council Local plans.

The vision for all of this is that the three parishes continue to foster their strong community spirit, benefiting from interdependence, while maintaining their own discrete identities.

The unique historic character of the Saxon strip covered by the three parishes, including their special features and factors and the valued natural environment, led to most of the area being included in the South Downs National Park in 2011, to ensure its protection for future generation to enjoy.

Commercial and residential development will be appropriate and sustainable, providing homes and economic activity which benefits residents, while at the same time protecting the outstanding natural landscape setting

Thanks to the efforts of the program management group, the focus group members and the street reps, the open day was a great success, and represented a very significant step forward in the progress of the project. There were over 200 visitors (despite the weather) and there was a real enthusiastic buzz about the room throughout the day.

More details can be found at http://www.beaconvillagesplan.co.uk/

Report and picture contributed by Don McBeth.