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‘Power for the people’
PEOPLE in Worcester now have the power to come up with their own blueprints for how the city should develop – despite concerns it could waste time and money.
Under the Localism Act, householders now have the ability to develop their own ‘local plans’ so they can choose where they want new shops, homes, parks and offices to go. But the city council’s leader has urged caution on the idea – and admitted he does not want to be swamped with endless requests from the public.
Councillor Simon Geraghty has insisted the authority’s work on the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP) could be put in danger if households are intent on taking advantage of the new legislation.
“To be honest, I would not encourage people to create their own neighbourhood plans,” he said.
“We’ve got our own plan in place and have benefited a lot from cross boundary work in south Worcestershire.
“Under the Localism Act we must have a process in place for if and when people do approach us with an interest in this, but our plan for south Worcestershire is a much better approach than a whole series of pepper-pot plans in place – I don’t think communities will benefit from that.”
Under the guidance, resident-created neighbourhood plans could work in exactly the same way as the SWDP – as a tool for approving or rejecting planning applications. But each one would need to go to a referendum before it could be accepted, which would be hosted by the city council and require at least 51 per cent approval.
An in-house council report says developing just one neighbourhood plan could cost anywhere from £17,000 to £200,000, depending on the extent of land covered.
The authority has set aside £50,000 as a precaution, in case it is contacted by interested groups, despite outlining the concerns.
Councillor Roger Knight, the cabinet member for cleaner and greener, said: “I’ve got concerns over this too, mainly on the timing - I don’t think it’s a good idea in a period of austerity. If there was a high take up, it could cost a lot of money and we could end up with some expensive red herrings.”
The Government says the Localism Act is aimed at increasing public pride and interest in their neighbourhoods and giving people a bigger say in civic affairs.