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More thoughts on the £50,000 town plan

(February 12, 2009)
TOWN councillors have agreed to press on with their plans to spend £50,000 on a new town plan - with the help of a big contribution from County Hall.
But what status will the plan have when it is completed? We don’t know.
Will the plan have a status of the current district local plan so that planning applications have to be ‘in accordance or conformity with the plan’?
Will it have the status of a ‘material planning consideration’ or simply be ‘supplementary planning guidance’ similar to a village design statement or village appraisal?
I doubt very much that it could have any status approaching a district local plan which needs to go through several stages and drafts, each open to public comment and proper consultation, possible legal challenge and usually the expense of a public inquiry. This would cost far more than £50,000.
Such a plan would also fetter the discretion of local elected unitary councillors in deciding future planning applications and place potential additional hurdles in the way of those who might wish to invest in the town.
It could place Warminster at a disadvantage vis-à-vis other towns that do not have additional plans although proponents of the plan say it will guide developers in the right direction benefiting the town rather than simply the interests of the individual developer.
However, if councillors insist on carrying on with this proposal it must be done properly and people be given proper information and opportunity for public comment.

The programme should there involve:

Publication of draft town plan - six week period for public consideration including public meetings at which councillors and consultants can be properly scrutinised.
Consideration of pulic comments by town council in public.

Publication of revised draft plan - six week period for public consultation and comments on changes made to the original draft.

Consideration in public by town councillors before sending the plans to Warminster Area Board/ Wiltshire Council to check the ideas are in conformity with the local development framework.

By which time the whole planning system may well have been changed by an incoming government.

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