In the perfect start to the Easter Holiday Kirkwells provided training last night to a parish council on neighbourhood planning.

And we left this particular village hall with the feeling that for many the key question  is “is neighbourhood planning going to be worth all the effort?”

After going through the process. Long, bureaucratic, and with some odd twists and turns. After investing all that time and possibly money (the other key question, of course, is where is this going to come from?). And after being told we are “in charge”, only to find this has checks and balances, one of which is you cannot “have less” – serious questions were being asked in the room about the value of neighbourhood planning.

And valid questions they are too. Is it better to stick with the devil you know – the local planning authority and their plans? Or is is better to grasp the nettle and become masters of your own destiny, get designated, and prepare a plan for your neighbourhood?

Our opinion is it has to be the latter. If you wait in the wings you lose any control you have. You also run the risk of being seen as less interested than the places that are neighbourhood planning. Will we have cases of local planning authorities saying “let’s put it over there, they don’t seem to care”?

The other point that these particular parishioners were making with great force was the great mismatch in resources they already faced. With developers employing vast legal and professional teams to win appeals. And wouldn’t the same developers just do this when it came to neighbourhood planning? The obvious answer is – probably yes. But, again, the neighbourhood planning process gives communities, if they do it well, and get the all important facilitation from their local planning authority, the position of authority, tjhe power of being in charge. The neighbourhood plan will be part of the development plan. Key local people will know it like the back of their hand and will be able to be powerful advocates for its cause. They may also have the huge backing of a local referendum.

One final thought on the issue of being challenged by developer, or whoever, before we go and open our Easter Eggs. The key to defending any challenge is going to be making sure the neighbourhood plan, as with all plans, is up to date. Regular review. This is one DCLG need to give some thought to. It is OK firing everyone up. But real support needs putting in place – financial and technical. In the end, if this is to be a success, we have to make sure neighbourhood plans do what they are intended to do. Put local people in charge.

Happy Easter!

If you would like to find out more about Kirkwells’ Neighbourhood Planning Training – call Mick on 01282 872570, or email

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