Cold Ash Parish NDP Open Day Event
On all the measures we set ourselves, the Neighbourhood Development Plan Open Day, on the 23rd of October, was a success. The number of attendees exceed our most optimistic estimates and the level of engagement of those who attended was excellent. Consequently, at certain points during the day, we ran out of clip boards and pens and had people queuing to speak to members of the NDP Steering Committee. Not ideal, but everyone seemed happy to wait and it was a positive problem to have.
The day was designed as a drop-in event where people could absorb the information in a sequence and way that suited everyone’s preference. Whilst many followed the flow of information as set out by the team, others preferred to dive into the proposed housing development sites and work out from there. Both seemed to be equally effective.
The material available on the day covered:
- our strategic aims, an overview of the parish and our objectives – that is, what we’re looking to achieve through enacting and NDP
- our proposed policies, covering the areas of:
- Environment & Landscape (including Biodiversity), which covered the character of the parish, Iconic Views, proposed Local Green Space designations, Buffer Zones and a Dark Skies Zone
- Getting around the parish, including encouraging sustainable movement and related issues. This covered traffic, travel, transport, and Public Rights of Way; basically, anything that relates to how we move through and around the parish
- Commercial considerations, which covered where industry and employment happens in the parish at present and how it’s evolving to meet the ongoing needs of businesses and residents
- Design Guide and Heritage, which introduced the concept of three design zones (Urban, Village and Rural) together with how we will influence development in each zone and make decisions on sites and planning applications
- The potential sites that developers have put forward for housing development and the latest position on the assessment of them
There was a lot of interest in the potential housing development sites. Developers put forward nineteen sites for consideration. These have already been reviewed by West Berkshire Council as part of the HELAA process (Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment) against criteria covering Suitability, Availability, Achievability and Deliverability. Of the nineteen sites, West Berkshire Council concluded that twelve are ‘unsuitable’ for development and seven are viable sites. The task for Cold Ash NDP Steering Committee and Cold Ash Parish Council is to:
- Determine whether they agree with West Berkshire Council’s assessment of those sites deemed unsuitable
- Assess those sites deemed ‘suitable’
All of this is being done against agreed Site Selection Criteria; this is essentially objective data based on the policies. The aim of the exercise is to identify the site(s) that best fit with our policies and deliver the target level of housing set for the parish by West Berkshire council, which was set at 40 in the Local Plan but is still under discussion
All attendees were invited to complete a questionnaire to provide their views on the draft policies. In addition to this, attendees:
- Were asked to provide their views on a range of traffic and travel related initiatives – this will enable Cold Ash Parish Council to engage with West Berkshire Council based on parishioner preferences
- Had the opportunity to vote on potential projects that will increase the quality of life within the parish
- Were able to vote on the photos submitted to the photography competition
In essence, the aim of the day was to get parishioner input to our evolving policies. This is critical as the policies define what we believe is important to our parishioners and will be used in assessing the relative priorities of potential development sites. We need to be able to evidence that our policies are in line with parishioner expectations, as this is required to support the submission of our proposed Neighbourhood Development Plan. When we submit our NDP to West Berkshire Council they will appoint an independent examiner who will review both the NDP and a Consultation Statement, which is a document that we need to produce to outline how we have engaged with our parishioners and factored in any feedback that we’ve received.
We received a lot of feedback about holding the event during school half-term holidays as parishioners with school-age children were likely to be on holiday and not able to attend. We apologise for this. But you haven’t missed the opportunity to comment on the proposals. The material used at the event is available here, together with a downloadable questionnaire.
Thank you to everyone who attended the event and provided their views. There’s always the risk that we could misread what parishioners really want, so engagement is critical.
And finally, some of the NDP Steering Committee members have had to resign due to other commitments. This has left us with a smaller team than we ideally need to continue to take the initiative forward in a timely manner. So, if you would like to get involved, please let us know. We can be contacted via the Parish Office or by email at email@example.com