Civic society hits out at town council over Neighbourhood Plan stance

DROITWICH Spa Civic Society has criticised the town council for denying residents a greater say on housing developments in the area.

The society’s chairman, Stuart Haywood, has written to Droitwich Spa Town Council after the authority decided against leading the formation of a Neighbourhood Plan.

A Neighbourhood Plan scheme sees residents have more input on future housing and business developments. It would replace the current Town Plan and apparently have more legal standing.

In his letter to town clerk Pam Craney, Mr Haywood said: “The civic society committee is very disappointed with the town council’s reluctance to lead the preparation of a neighbourhood plan.

“We felt this was an opportunity for councillors and townspeople to have a greater influence on developments in and around the town, rather than merely reacting to the plans of developers.

“The downside is that developers will now have no prior idea of local aspirations and preferences when they come up with schemes.

“Objecting to and trying to amend proposals is always less productive than trying to guide thinking in advance.”

However, Councillor Roy Murphy, chairman of the planning committee, has defended the council’s stance on the issue.

He said: “As a responsible council, the costs and benefits of neighbourhood planning have been extensively researched by councillors. Discussions with officers at Wychavon District Council have also taken place and their advice has been followed.

“For towns, achievement of a consensus is more difficult where the presence of groups with competing agendas makes overall acceptance of a plan less likely.

“At the final stage of the process, a referendum must obtain acceptance of at least 51 per cent of the votes cast. Before this stage is reached an independent examiner must be satisfied that all criteria are in place. This stage can be expected to cost £20,000. Where technical surveys with contributions from consultants and specialists are a requirement, there would be additional costs. Total costs have been estimated to be £60,000. Most of this cost would have to be borne by the town’s council taxpayers.

“High cost ventures with only a low probability of a successful outcome are generally inadvisable. Under the circumstances, therefore, Droitwich Spa Town Council is adopting a cautious approach and will consider neighbourhood planning in due course as and when circumstances change.

“Residents will have ample opportunity to air their views with the revision of the Town Plan.”

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