Logo of the Highcliffe and Walkford Parish Council

Highcliffe And Walkford Neighbourhood Plan

Highcliffe & Walkford Parish (North Highcliffe & Walkford Ward)

As Chairman of the Parish Council I thought I should respond to the two recent Articles in the New Milton Advertiser. The first was headed– “Anger as Green Spaces lose out in watered down Highcliffe Neighbourhood Plan”. The second “Castle among sites taken off plan protection list”

It is perfectly true for the NMA to say that at our meeting on Wednesday 27th July the Parish Council expressed disappointment that several of its Neighbourhood Plan proposals were not accepted by the Independent Examiner. {Perhaps we should never have expected a 100% approval rate).

However, the Council recognised that many of the important safeguards proposed in the Plan were accepted and I think it would have painted a far more accurate picture had the NMA made that clear too.

The Plan is about much more than green spaces, important though they are. It embraces matters such as the design and density of new houses, the future uses of the High Street, parking matters, cycling and walking in safety. These are undoubtedly very important issues for us all and by having them in our Neighbourhood Plan, they will be of immense value in ensuring that future planning applications protect and retain the local character of our area.

The removal of a number of our Green Space proposals is regrettable but for the 10 that were approved we are delighted. Most of the others that were not agreed (such as the Castle) were omitted by the Examiner only because he felt they were all covered by existing protections and they didn’t need to be covered twice.

With BCP currently looking at its own local plan, some of those protections may be at risk in future. However, the Parish Council has already established a continuous review team under the Chairmanship of its Vice Chairman to keep watch on this and if any protection is withdrawn we will press for it to be reinstated in an update of our Neighbourhood Plan.

The remaining two Green Spaces to be rejected by the Examiner were Jesmond Avenue and Verno Lane and both were omitted because they were the subject of extant planning applications. We can do no more about this for now but we will watch carefully and be ready to seek their reinstatement into the Neighbourhood Plan if circumstances permit.

We can, of course, only get something reinstated if the Neighbourhood Plan is itself approved by local residents in the upcoming referendum (date to be advised)

The Parish Council is very proud of the 3 years’ work done to produce our Neighbourhood Plan. It involved a large number of volunteers and many, many hours of dedicated research. Having a Plan will undoubtedly pay dividends in the future and, despite any disappointments about what may not be in the Plan, it deserves everyone’s support.

The Parish Council was unanimous in supporting the Neighbourhood Plan and it looks forward to the residents’ referendum later this year where a simple majority vote will give the Parish and residents more control over planning policies and Applications, which are not available at present.

Bob Hutchings, OBE