Arborfield and Barkham have been working together to produce a Neighbourhood Plan.
The two parishes are facing great changes, with the Arborfield Green garden village being developed on the site of the former Arborfield Garrison and with the new Arborfield Cross Relief Road now under construction.
With the Borough Council now in the process of developing the Local Plan Update, which will guide the future development of Wokingham Borough up to 2036, this is a very good time to be gathering our opinions and sharing them with the Borough Council.
The plan is being prepared by a Steering Group consisting of Councillors and residents drawn from both parishes. Work completed includes a Residents’ Survey in late 2016, a number of Focus Groups researching various topics including sustainability and greenways, analysis of housing needs and some public drop-in events including the “Shaping Our Future” event held in Autumn 2017. A further event was held in June 2018 to present a draft of the plan which launched the public consultation.
Arborfield and Barkham Parish Councils submitted their proposed Neighbourhood Plan to Wokingham Borough Council in May 2019. The plan sets out a vision and objectives for the future of the area and contains planning policies to guide the development and use of land in Arborfield and Barkham parishes.
In line with legislation, a six-week consultation on the proposed Plan was carried out between 8 July and 19 August 2019. The Borough Council appointed an independent examiner who received copies of all the documentation and representations received and undertook the examination of the plan in September and October 2019.
Examination completed successfully (18th October)
Good news! The Arborfield and Barkham Neighbourhood Plan has taken a huge step forward as it has successfully come through the examination process. The Examiner has reviewed the documents and, subject to some modifications recommended, the Plan meets the basic conditions and may proceed to referendum. In her report, the Examiner complimented the local community volunteers and Parish Councils, for producing a nicely presented Plan, tailored well to their planning requirements.
Some very useful principles have been established:
a) Settlement separation
b) Outstanding views have to be taken into account (with the Examiner’s definition included)
c) Public Open Spaces recognised and should be retained for this purpose. Pound Copse found its way into the Plan in this category.
d) Locally valued natural and heritage assets
e) The need to minimise additional traffic on unsuitable roads is recognised.
A major challenge has been to ensure compliance with national and local plans. The Steering Group sought to push the boundaries as far as possible: in the end, the modifications required by the Examiner were not as extensive as feared. The main consequences have been some loosening of proposals to preserve landscape views and a proposed formula for the provision of open space in conjunction with any new development was not accepted.
The NP has to go to the WBC Executive to accept the modifications and to proceed to referendum. This meeting is scheduled for 28 November.
Assuming a positive decision by the WBC Executive, the referendum should then be able to take place in the New Year. Late January is seen as the earliest possible time given the statutory notice period required.
Making the Plan: This should be a routine decision by WBC and will take place a few weeks later.
A new version of the Plan, incorporating the Examiner’s recommendations, will be published as soon as possible.
NP Steering Group
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