Concerns have been raised that moves to introduce a ‘neighbourhood plan’ to help guide future development in a Barnsley village are both premature and likely to “stifle” development in a way which was never intended when the Government introduced the scheme.
Neighbourhood plans can be adopted by local communities and set out guidelines covering a range of topics, including the environment, economy and more controversially housing development.
They are intended as a guide to help steer the way communities develop in the years ahead and are important because they carry legal weight, when adopted.
A committee has been working in Oxspring for several years on a neighbourhood plan for that parish and public consultations have now been held, with a ballot needed before it can be adopted.
But the village has a complex planning history for housing, with development company Yorkshire Land aiming to create a large new development of homes alongside new facilities for the whole village, while Barnsley Council has also earmarked two sites for housing, but later withdrawn them.
The council does not support the Yorkshire Land scheme and is the latter stages of formulating its own development blueprint, called a Local Plan, to guide housing and economic development in the whole borough.
That has yet to be signed off by a Government planning inspector, who has previously told the council to find more sites for new homes in villages away from the major urban communities.
Yorkshire Land has submitted its objections to the proposed neighbourhood plan, warning that it would be premature to adopt that without confirmation of what the Barnsley-wide document will contain.
Those developing the Oxspring plan have been keen to avoid any major developments in the village, in the belief that smaller ‘infill’ sites will provide the new homes the area needs, without affecting the character of the area.
However, Yorkshire Land has accused them of making an about-turn since the early days of the plan’s development.
They have highlighted a promotional video made in 2014, which stated: “What local people have told us so far is that what we need is affordable housing or at least a mixture that would allow starter up homes as well as more executive housing.”
The Yorkshire Land proposal would have to include a significant number of affordable housing, because that is governed by legislation, with Barnsley Council expecting 30 per cent of new homes in the western part of the Barnsley borough to meet that criteria, because of the level of demand.
Their letter states if it remained as drafted, the plan: “Would fail to address the identified need and desires of the village, including and perhaps most importantly local housing need.
“We believe the neighbourhood plan, as currently drafted, would also set a dangerous precedent for other neighbourhood plans around the country in that they may be utilised as a mechanism to stifle development ratehr that being a positive mechanism – as intended by central Government – to help influence the locations of new development and address community needs at a local level.”
If the Oxspring plan is to be adopted, it will have to meet the approval of Barnsley Council and win support from more than half residents in a ballot of the parish.