Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan

Staplehurst Parish Council has prepared a Neighbourhood Development Plan that sets out a sustainable vision for the area and a series of policies the community is proposing to be used in the determination of planning applications.
 
STAPLEHURST NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN HAS LEGAL FORCE
 
Following the positive outcome of the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan referendum on 3rd November, the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan now has formal legal force following the official 'making' of the plan by Maidstone Borough Council at its full council meeting on 7th December 2016.
 
'Making the plan' is a formal term meaning Maidstone Borough Council has adopted the neighbourhood plan.  
The plan now has legal force, forming part of the statutory development plan for Maidstone Borough.  This means that Maidstone Borough Council must use the plan when determining planning applications for the area.
 
 
REFERENDUM RESULT NEWS

The result of the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan Referendum held on Thursday 3rd November is as follows:

Question:  Do you want Maidstone Borough Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Staplehurst to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area? 

Votes cast: 1,586 (33.77% turnout)
Yes: 1,468 (92.56%)
No: 118 (7.44%)
Rejected: 0

The Parish Council and Neighbourhood Plan Group thank everyone who took the time to vote and have their say on the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan.

REFERENDUM DAY: THURSDAY 3RD NOVEMBER 2016
 
The long-awaited referendum will take place on Thursday 3rd November 2016. The Polling Station in the North Hall, Staplehurst Village Centre will be open for voting from 7.00am to 10.00pm.
 
The referendum will ask for a ‘yes’ or no’ answer to the question “Do you want Maidstone Borough Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Staplehurst to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”

If the referendum’s answer is ‘yes’ then Maidstone Borough Council will use the Neighbourhood Plan to help it decide planning applications in Staplehurst. This will give Staplehurst a greater influence over the shape of future development and related issues such as infrastructure, traffic movement, community facilities, service provision, open spaces and enhancing the heart of the village.
 
If more people vote ‘no’ than ‘yes’, then Maidstone Borough Council will decide planning applications without taking the Neighbourhood Plan into consideration.
 
Read the final copy of the Plan here.  Full supporting documentation can be accessed by using the links in the sections below.  You can also find a copy of the plan and full referendum information at http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/neighbourhood-plans2.
 
To consult a hard copy of the Neighbourhood Plan please visit the Parish Office, Staplehurst Library or Maidstone Borough Council's offices at Maidstone House, King Street, Maidstone.
 
For enquiries about voting, including voting by post or proxy, please phone Maidstone Borough Council's helpline on 01622 602007 or e-mail electoralservices@maidstone.gov.uk.

 
How did we get here?

Read on below for some background information about Neighbourhood Planning, previous stages of the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan and a short explanation of the Maidstone Borough Council Draft Local Plan context.

Background to Neighbourhood Planning

Neighbourhood plans were introduced by the Localism Act and give communities a chance to influence the plan for their local area. The initial Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan Public Consultation about the area to be covered ended on the 8th January 2013 and two responses were received. Both responses were positive to the idea of the whole parish being the designated area, which MBC approved. This can be seen at: http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/neighbourhood-plans2.

In 2013 the Parish Council agreed a ‘Statement of Intent’ that set out the proposed framework for the plan and covered subjects such as housing, community facilities, infrastructure requirements, transport, education and economic aspects.

Neighbourhood Plan – Previous Events

Community engagement and consultation are essential if the Neighbourhood Plan is to be meaningful and represent the aspirations of the parish as a whole.  A number of consultation and presentation events have been held. 

Visioning Event

The Visioning Event took place in the Village Centre on the evening of the 12th September 2013. Key stakeholders, village groups, charities and business owners were invited to attend.  The results enabled Feria Urbanism to form a framework for the Three Day Design Forum.  For more detailed information about the event click on these links: (1) Visioning Event Presentation (2) Visioning Event Report.

Three Day Design Forum

The Design Forum also took place in the Village Centre from the 8th to the 10th October 2013. Its aim was to look to the future of at least 20 years. The process was not about taking decisions, but about testing ideas. There was a very good turn-out, with an average of 129 people attending on each day and 120 people signing in for the final presentation on the last night. There was a good mix of residents, land owners and developers attending throughout the exercise.

The vision concluded that the village could maintain strong green rural edges whilst accommodating a level of appropriate housing growth. It also provided for improvements to key areas of the village such as the railway station, crossroads, shopping parade and Village Centre building.  For more detailed information about the event click to read the report: Design Forum Report.

Consultation Event January-February 2014

A public consultation, presentation and exhibition event covering the emerging policies of the plan was held on 31st January and 1st and 2nd February at the Village Centre, with the exhibition continuing at Staplehurst Library for the rest of February.

Despite the very wet weather 203 people attended on the first day when presentations were made, asking pertinent questions, highlighting issues and concerns as well as offering new ideas. These Q&A sessions were recorded to assist with shaping the future policy themes. A further 155 people attended the event on the next two days. Questionnaires were available throughout and after the event for people to express their views.
 
For more information about the event click on the following links: (1) Jan-Feb Event Posters (2) Presentation Slides (3) Jan-Feb Event Questionnaire.

Consultation Event: March 2014

A public consultation, presentation and exhibition event covering the initial draft of what became the plan document was held on 13th March at the United Reformed Church, followed by an exhibition on 15th and 16th March at the Village Centre and thereafter in Staplehurst Library. There were 142 registered visits to the event.  For more information about the event click on the following links: (1) March Event Posters (2) Presentation Slides (3) Off-line Questionnaire Responses (4) On-line Questionnaire Responses.

Regulation 14 Consultation
 
The Regulation 14 version of the draft Neighbourhood Plan was published for public consultation between 4th June and 17th July 2014.  It was supported by a public meeting, exhibition and presentation on 11th June.  For more information about the event click on the following links: (1) June Event Posters (2) Presentation Slides.
 
Following the consultation period the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group reviewed all the comments received.  A feedback event was held on 12th November 2014 to give residents the opportunity to hear what people had said.  The posters from the event can be viewed by clicking this link: November Event Posters.
 
All the comments were captured in a consultation statement that is published alongside the Regulation 16 version of the Neighbourhood Plan.
 
A digital copy of the Regulation 14 draft plan may still be accessed by clicking here. A print copy is available to consult in the Parish Office.

Regulation 16 Consultation
 
Maidstone Borough Council organised a public consultation on the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan in accordance with Regulation 16 of the Neighbourhood Planning (General) Regulations 2012.  The consultation period ran for six weeks from 23rd October until 4th December 2015.  A presentation and question and answer session were held in the Village Centre on 18th November and copies of the plan and supporting documents were published on-line and made available at the MBC Gateway, the Kent History and Library Centre, Staplehurst Library and the Parish Office.
 
A copy of the plan, the supporting documents and comments made during the consultation are available to view at http://consult.maidstone.gov.uk/portal/stapndpr16oct15.  You can also view plan documents by clicking on the links below:

Submission and First (Partial) Examination

Following completion of the Regulation 16 consultation on 4th December 2015 the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan and supporting documents were submitted to a planning inspector for formal examination and assessment of whether the plan was ready to proceed to referendum.
 
Having requested and received additional information*, at the start of May 2016 the inspector issued an interim report.  To view the report go to the MBC website at http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/neighbourhood-plans2 and click on the 'Information' tab, then in the table click on the link in the 'Independent Examination' column for Staplehurst.  On the same page there are links to comments by the Parish Council and MBC on issues raised in the report.
 
Shortly after issuing her report the inspector advised MBC that she had lost her accreditation and had to stop work immediately.  This meant that a new Examiner had to be found and in June 2016 Mr Derek Stebbing was appointed.  Maidstone Borough Council issued an update report about the position to MBC's Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee on 12th July 2016.  You can read the report to the Committee at item 12 on the agenda here https://services.maidstone.gov.uk/meetings/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=579&MId=2607.
 
*The additional information provided to the first inspector can be seen in the explanatory tables in the updated Basic Conditions Statement (link below).  For ease of reference there are also links below to the other key Neighbourhood Plan documents.  The Submission Plan and the Consultation Statement remain unchanged from the versions issued for Regulation 16 consultation.
Final Examination and Green Light for Referendum
 
On 13th September Maidstone Borough Council's Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee endorsed the recommendation of  Mr Derek Stebbing, the new Examiner of the Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan, that the plan proceed to referendum subject to some modification of wording.
 
Read the Examiner's report by clicking on this link Staplehurst Neighbourhood Plan Examination Report 02 August 2016.
 
Read the minutes of the Strategic Planning, Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting by clicking on this link SPS&T Committee Minutes 13th September 2016.
 
The recommended modifications to the Neighbourhood Plan document have been made.  Staplehurst's electors will have the opportunity to vote on the plan in a referendum on 3rd November 2016.

Neighbourhood Plan - MBC Context

Maidstone Borough Council’s Draft Local Plan sets out preferred sites for housing and other development in the borough.  The Parish Council responded to the 2014 public consultation on the Regulation 18 version of the draft Local Plan: Staplehurst Parish Council Response to Draft Local Plan.

In October 2015 MBC held a public consultation about further aspects of the Draft Local Plan, including additional proposals for housing sites.  You can read the Parish Council's response to this consultation here: Staplehurst Parish Council Response to October 2015 Draft Local Plan Consultation.
 
In February and March 2016 MBC held a public consultation on the Regulation 19 version of its Local Plan.  At the same time it consulted on the Maidstone Integrated Transport Strategy 2011-2031.  You can read the Parish Council's responses to these consultations by clicking on the relevant links here: Staplehurst PC Comments on Reg 19 Plan and Staplehurst PC Comments on Maidstone Integrated Transport Strategy.
 
The current status of sites submitted for Staplehurst is that MBC has identified three sites for future development and inclusion in the Local Plan: Hen & Duckhurst Farm, Marden Road; Fishers Farm, Headcorn Road; Land north of Henhurst Farm.  Go to http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/local-plan-progress for MBC's latest news.
 
Any site included in the Local Plan will still require submission and agreement of a formal planning application before development may proceed.  To date MBC has granted outline planning permission for development on Hen & Duckhurst Farm (Application 14/502010) and is considering applications for development on the western side of Fishers Farm (Application 14/505432) and on the eastern side (Application 15/510186).  Key the application numbers into the search field at http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/planning-application-search for detailed information about these applications.
 
To see the documents that have supported the development of the draft MBC Local Plan go to http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/residents/planning/local-plan/evidence.   

Acknowledgement
 
The Parish Council is grateful to the Community Development Foundation, acting on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government, for selecting it to be a recipient of a £7,000 Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning grant.
 
Those who have worked on production of the Neighbourhood Plan include members of the Parish Council and the Rural Settlement Group*, which comprises Councillors and residents, with assistance from specialist consultants Feria-Urbanism http://feria-urbanism.eu/home/4588038493.

*For further information on the work of the Rural Settlement Group please see documents at: http://www.staplehurstvillage.org.uk/rural_settlement_group.aspx.