BEECH village’s community-led development plan has been cleared to progress to a public vote. But a referendum on the final Beech Neighbourhood Plan could be delayed until May 2021, because of the coronavirus lockdown.
At the beginning of May, East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) and Beech Parish Council received an independent examiner’s report on the draft plan, setting out a blueprint for development in the village up to 2028.
EHDC has decided to accept in full the examiner’s recommendations on how the plan should be amended in order to comply fully with the relevant statutory criteria, and the parish council has concurred.
The next stage is for the village to vote on whether the neighbourhood plan should be used to determine planning applications in the area – but because of the Covid-19 crisis, the Government has postponed all elections and referenda until May 2021 (date subject to change).
Welcoming the examiner’s report, Graham Webb, chairman of Beech Parish Council, added the village plan is “effectively in force already”, however, with local government planners instructed to give ‘significant weight’ to neighbourhood plans that are just awaiting permission to hold a referendum.
Mr Webb added: “This seems an appropriate time to thank every single one of the many Beech residents who have been involved in producing the Neighbourhood Plan, from the very start of the process in 2016.”
The Beech Neighbourhood Plan 2019-2028 retains the key aspects of Beech’s 2002 Village Design Statement, including the proposed non-coalescence ‘gap’ with Alton. The proposed mapped ‘gap’ to Medstead has been removed by the examiner. But Mr Webb reassured villagers this area is still protected by firm restrictions on development outside the settlement boundary.
The plan includes a presumption against new plot sizes of less than 0.2 hectares, and preserves the setting of Thedden Grange and its parkland.
Mr Webb conceded the village plan will need to be revised following EHDC’s adoption of its new Local Plan 2017 to 2036. But added “that won’t occur until sometime in 2021”, and could present an opportunity to reconsider the Medstead gap.
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