The government is always tinkering with the planning system, but for me, neighbourhood planning is easily the most positive and exciting change to be introduced since I started work as a town planner in 2000.
Neighbourhood planning gives communities the chance to come together and decide proactively how they want their neighbourhoods to look and function in the future. It’s been a long and challenging process for residents in Boscombe and Pokesdown to get this far, but after more than two years of hard work and with the help of planning consultant, Martha Covell of local company ECA, the Draft Plan is out!
The plan is particularly ambitious as it covers a huge area – Boscombe East and West, with a population of some 22,000 residents. It’s also very wide ranging. Draft proposals include protecting the area’s built heritage, better walking and cycling links, promoting green buildings and bold policies relating to housing. If adopted, the plan would set minimum internal space standards for new housing and require at least 50% of new homes built in the area to be three bed or more.
We’re keen to hear your views on the plan, especially if you live or work in Boscombe East or West. It’s important for people from all ages and backgrounds to input into neighbourhood planning, to make sure the proposals reflect the needs of the diverse community. You can view the plan and complete the questionnaire now. The deadline for responses is 2 March 2018.
Although the process is led by the community, the Council’s planning department has a legal duty to support them. Our first task was consulting on and designating the boundary which proved tricky! I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no such thing as a perfect boundary but by and large the community managed to iron things out and we finally approved the boundary they proposed.
As things progressed myself and colleagues from planning, highways, regeneration, housing and economy have been to numerous meetings, provided evidence and made suggestions on all sorts of issues.
My biggest task was responding to the Forum’s ‘call for sites’. They have been keen to embrace proposals for development that they feel would enhance the area. I put together details of a series of sites around the heart of Boscombe which if developed could not only provide housing and other uses but also create better links to the high street, especially for those travelling by foot or bike. The Draft Plan identifies a total of 18 sites for a wide range of community and commercial uses as well as housing.
I live just outside Boscombe, but I’m in the area most days, on the school run, visiting the shops or cycling though on my way to work. Boscombe is close to my heart so I’m looking forward to the plan getting through the final hurdles – which include a referendum where residents of the two wards will get to decide if the plan should come into force.
Bournemouth is lucky to have many neighbourhoods with their own identities and facilities and I hope this will be the first of many neighbourhood plans. What would you plan for your area?
Planning Officer (Urban Design)