LETTER TO PARISHIONERS

A Commonsense Neighbourhood Development Plan for Burghill Parish

Note: this is NOT the 'official' Burghill Parish Council website.

Our letter to Parishioners - June 2017

IF YOU ARE AS CONCERNED ABOUT THIS AS WE ARE, YOU ARE WELCOME TO CONTACT US AT THE FOLLOWING EMAIL ADDRESS (click on it, or enter the email address in your email program):

PLEASE READ THE LETTER BELOW AND ENSURE THAT YOU MAKE YOUR VIEWS KNOWN DIRECTLY TO BURGHILL PARISH COUNCIL

Dear Fellow Parishioners

Currently options for the Parish's Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) are being presented in one way only by the Parish Council (PC) that has excluded involvement from the community. Therefore, in the interests of balance and because Parishioners have a right to know, we would like to inform you that there is another option.

We are enclosing an article which we submitted to the Parish Magazine for June (but which the Editors refused to publish) trying to promote the fact that the Parish has already achieved the 18% target growth required by Herefordshire Council for the NDP.

The guidelines for the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) require that the wider community is involved in the process, and that the parishioners' ideas and input are taken into account. Parishioners are also supposed to be kept closely in touch with developments, their responses listened to sympathetically, and subsequently, acted upon. This has not happened.

In 2013 the PC decided to do a NDP, the start was promising but there has been lack of proper consultation with the community about the NDP since late 2014. Astonishingly, there seem to be no published accounts on the PC website which reconcile NDP funding and expenditure, but analysis of Parish Council Minutes shows that 25,000 of public grants have been received, plus whatever the Parish Council has provided from the parishioners' money.

The Plan was rejected by Herefordshire Council (HC) in September 2016 due to lack of consultation and undeliverability of allocated sites. The PC has subsequently employed consultants at a further cost of 1,400 or more to re-assess the same sites. This 'Updated Sites Assessment Report (currently being 'consulted' on) is no longer robust enough and this has been acknowledged by both Kirkwells (the consultants producing the document), and the Chairman of the Steering Group. This was discussed at the April 2017 PC meeting. Strangely the PC initiated and approved this extra work on 16 November 2016 at a time when it was known that the Parish was only about 23 houses short of its 18% target of 124, and since then more houses have been given permission by Herefordshire Council outside of the Plan!

If the plan progresses with some or all of the 60 houses on mini-housing estates still included in it, in addition to the 126 (over-target 18% housing growth from already-given planning approvals and already-identified 'windfalls'**), then there is a major potential problem, because recent government changes mean that those extra 60 houses will be deemed as having "Planning Permission in Principle". For additional houses which are not needed!

(** 'windfalls' are sites which might not have been previously known, sites for single dwellings, changes in existing planning permissions or conversions to existing buildings)

Concerned parishioners have been trying to persuade the PC that the NDP which they are continuing to pursue is unnecessary. But sadly the PC will not listen. The Steering Group has done the background work which no-one else was prepared to do, and they deserve credit for that. However, all through this process, the PC has failed to properly consult with the community so that the plan might become "owned" by the people of this Parish. This was one reason Herefordshire Council rejected the PC's plan. And now once again, the PC and SG do not wish to make any changes to their plan or to go back and consult with the Parish, to establish if the community really wants more houses than are necessary, as the consultants themselves have recommended.

We, as concerned parishioners have tried to put an article in the June Parish Magazine, responding to the Parish Council's own bulletins which are asking for comments on these pointless site assessments by the end of June. But, sadly, the Parish Magazine would not publish it unless it was delayed by a month to allow the PC to respond to our article by which time it will be too late! Therefore we have taken this step of informing parishioners directly, at our own cost

The inclusion of unnecessary sites will affect you and is totally unnecessary with a considerable detrimental impact on the Parish. The Parish Council has not informed you of this fact; instead stubbornly pursuing unnecessary development, which will change the landscape of our Parish irrevocably. .

The alternatives are:

1. what we are proposing, which is 126 (perhaps including one or two more by the time this plan is finished) houses/conversions at this time which have already been built or given planning approval, plus already-identified 'windfalls'**, based on 18% growth, meeting the HC target. And Herefordshire Council has stated that a plan like this would be acceptable.

2. what the PC has embarked on, which could be up to 60 houses on mini-housing estates, on top of the 126 in option 1 above. That would be up to 27% growth.

3. abandon the NDP (or have it rejected again due to the lack of consultation and undeliverability of sites), in which case there will truly be a development free-for-all.

4. or let HC take over, and impose their own definition of a minimum 18% growth on the Parish.

The 25 affordable houses already provided within the existing planning permissions, far exceed the demand for 14 social housing units identified in the most recent affordable housing survey.

You, like us, may wonder what on earth is going on. As a group we have endeavoured to represent the community and correct the course the Parish Council seems stubbornly determined to proceed with. You have been excluded when you should have been informed. Therefore, we need your help in bringing some kind of sanity back to this process that will involve all of us in the decision-making process and not just the PC and Steering Group deciding what they feel is right for us. Please we urge you to write to Mrs Paulette Scholes, Clerk to the Parish Council, Willow House, Burghill, Hereford HR4 7RE or email the Parish Council at the following email address (click on it, or enter the email address in your email program) to make your views clear before the end of June :

(If you leave it until after June, when the 'consultation' on the extra housing sites has finished, the Parish Council may have an excuse to ignore your views.)

We are going to put information on a website now that it seems the Parish Magazine is denied to us! That website is at http://commonsenseNDP.mypressonline.com, please make a note of it and visit it for the information which you are not being given by the Parish Council.

with regards from a concerned group of parishioners

June 2017

** note: "Windfalls" are sites which might not have been previously known, sites for single dwellings, changes in existing planning permissions or conversions to existing buildings.