This Thursday, voters in Bishops Lydeard and Cothelstone Parish can have their say on whether the Neighbourhood Plan for the two parishes ought to be approved. Taking advantage of new legislation, volunteers from the community, including parish councillors and local residents have produced the plan over the last few years as a means to take greater control over development. Built on views gathered through, exhibitions, numerous public meetings and a parish-wide survey, the plan contains policies on employment, tourism and housing amongst other things. It is important to note that the plan cannot stop all development. It has to conform with Taunton Deane’s Local Development Framework, which requires Bishops Lydeard to accommodate up to 200 new homes. These new homes will be built regardless of whether the Neighbourhood Plan is approved. However, by having a Neighbourhood Plan, we have the opportunity of controlling where and how they are built and we can influence the type of housing that is built and what else comes with the development, e.g. allotments, open space, woodland. This is what the plan does.
New housing development will require infrastructure to support it whether that’s transportation, health or education. Much of this is now funded through a levy on new development, called CIL. CIL funds are collected by Taunton Deane and partly spent by them on infrastructure anywhere in the Borough. Some of the funds are distributed to Somerset County Council to carry out its functions – highways and education etc. However, 15 % of the total, perhaps £375,000 in the case of the Bishops Lydeard development would be paid to the Parish Council to spend on infrastructure within the two parishes. Where a Neighbourhood Plan is in place, that rises to 25% or somewhere in the region of £625,000*. That equates to around £250,000 more that we get to keep in our community.
So, when you come to decide how to vote in the referendum, please bear that in mind. If the Neighbourhood Plan is rejected, the community will lose control over many areas of planning policy, with Taunton Deane taking it back for themselves, we will lose around £250,000 to spend on local infrastructure and we will still get the same if not more development in the two parishes. So I’m sure you can see how I’ll be voting. Please support the Neighbourhood Plan in the referendum.
*The figures used here are estimates based on typical house size. The actual number of homes has yet to be determined although the LDF sets a ceiling of 200.