About the Neighbourhood Plan
The statutory planning system is a maze of documentation, detailed complex policies and case law which is generally impenetrable to the layman. Most residents’ experience of the planning system will be limited either to seeking planning consent for modifications to their own house or raising objections to planning applications submitted by third parties, typically on land adjacent to their own properties. Those who have had this experience will appreciate that the outcome is determined by reference and interpretation of the planning policies of the local planning authority, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council (WHBC), together a degree of subjective assessment by the relevant case officer.
The government in 2011 introduced new legislation which allowed local communities to develop their own planning policies that would have to be taken into account by WHBC when determining individual planning applications. These local policies would be incorporated into a comprehensive document called the Neighbourhood Plan which would be the subject of local consultation and could only come into force if supported by a positive vote at a local referendum.
The Parish Council has over the last year developed a draft Neighbourhood Plan for Northaw and Cuffley and our intention is to commence community consultation in the near future where we will share with all stakeholders the detail. The current draft document is circa 60 pages of text, drawings and pictures and is not yet in a state suitable for public consultation. However at this stage we are able to share the core concepts and would welcome feedback.
Our research highlighted that over a 10 year period there were more houses in the area but the population had fallen. In addition there was demand from the community for more choice in housing particularly smaller and more affordable houses which would allow residents to trade down and remain in the area.
We also received feedback that there was a significant concern about development which was out of character with the surrounding area, typically this related to major house extensions or developments in back gardens or on sites following demolition.
Our draft policies seek to address these issues
- We are proposing detailed policies which would prescribe separation distances between houses that would ensure that over development of sites is prevented and overlooking and overshadowing is minimized
- Restrict gated communities
- As far as possible ensure that developments are in keeping with the general character of the area
Recent planning regulations introduced the concept of permitted development where many small extensions to existing properties no longer require planning consent. The above policies will not impact on the ability to extend under permitted development rights.
Residents will already be aware that WHBC within their local plan are proposing that two sites currently in the greenbelt will be designated for residential development, one site is at the end of the Meadway and the other is between Greenfields and the tennis courts, residential development capacity circa 30 and 110 units respectively. For both sites we have included within the draft Neighbourhood Plan development briefs that set out how we would like both sites to be developed.
Retail Offer in Cuffley
Community consultation revealed that there was a desire that Station Road should remain a vibrant local retail centre with a variety of retail units and services. In order to restrict a drift towards services and catering outlets we are proposing a policy that planning consent should be refused for change of use from retail to other uses when the total retail offer is below 70%.
In order to minimise problems with delivery lorries servicing shops on the south side of Station Road we are proposing a policy that requires the service road behind the shops to be kept free from any development that affects its ability to be used for deliveries.
We are also proposing a policy for shop fronts which overtime will result in harmonisation and prevention of undesirable features such as external security grills.
Sopers Road industrial estate
We anticipate that there will be pressure to redevelop some units in Sopers Road either as new replacement commercial units or possibly residential. Our draft policy is to support development for light industrial and office uses but resist residential uses. Any new development would be restricted to the height of the existing Everest building.
All residents are already fully aware of problems with through traffic and congestion, particularly in Station Road. The ideal solution would be a bypass but this could never be justified on a cost/benefit basis.
Our proposals for Station Road include
- The whole road becomes a 20 mph zone
- An increase in parking and loading bays
- Two additional pedestrian crossings
- Removal of the planters on the south side
The impact of these measures would result in a more pedestrian friendly environment with no negative impact in terms of congestion during rush hours.
We have developed a range of policies which are aimed at preserving the existing facilities and making improvements where appropriate. In particular we are proposing that a flood lit all weather pitch is developed at the King George V playing fields. This will be located on land between the bowls club and Northaw Road and will not result in a loss of any of the existing facilities. In addition we will be seeking to work with the local football, tennis and bowls clubs to improve facilities possibly including a new sports pavilion.
Funding and delivery
We have throughout the development of the plan recognised that we must be able to demonstrate that what we are proposing is deliverable.
When the two major sites proposed for residential development come forward there is likely to be agreements negotiated by WHBC which require cash or in kind contributions towards projects that mitigate the local impact of the proposed developments. We fully expect that these contributions from developers will fund the proposed highways work on Station Road and at the Cuffley playing fields.
In due course we will be undertaking in depth community consultation through focus groups, public meetings and written submissions. From previous consultation exercises we already have contact details of residents who wished to participate in consultation. If you would like to become involved in the consultation or wish to provide feedback through our contact us page. Further public meetings will be held in the coming months and details will be on our website and public notice boards.
We look forward to hearing from you.