What has Paddock Wood done so far?
Paddock Wood Town Council applied to the Borough Council for the designation of a Neighbourhood Area covering the whole of Paddock Wood. This was approved in February 2014 and was the first step towards preparing a Neighbourhood Plan for Paddock Wood. See the details of the application here
A working group was set up in the autumn of 2014 and a formal decision was made to proceed with a Neighbourhood Plan. Since then the group has held monthly meetings with a variety of visiting speakers attending.
At the start of 2015 a steering group was established to oversee the process and preparation of the NP.
During 2015 the steering group met with and made contact with various planning consultants with expertise in the field of NPs.
Feria-Urbanism and Alison Eardley Consulting were appointed to assist in the preparation and development of the first stages of the Paddock Wood NP.
Final terms of reference and a governance framework were ratified by Paddock Wood Town Council.
In December 2015 Feria Urbanism paid a two day visit to Paddock Wood during which they went out and about in the town taking photographs and meeting with a number of the key people involved including the steering group.
The first public consultation exercise, organised by Feria-Urbanism and attended by residents of Paddock Wood, was held on the evening of 17 March 2016 at St Andrew's Church. This was followed in late April by a two-day design forum which was also held at St Andrew's Church. There were presentations from various groups within the Community, discussions took place and site visits were made. This culminated in a presentation to the public in the early evening of the second day.
A draft interim report was drafted by Feria-Urbanism and in July 2016 this was presented to an audience of over 200 residents at the Primary School. The report was favourably received and the Steering Group made the decision to employ Feria-Urbanism to take the project forward to completion.
Four key working groups have been set up and each has its own terms of reference based on advice provided by Feria-Urbanism and the Neighbourhood Plan Governance document.
The Town Centre Working Group and Sports & Recreation Groups have already met whilst the Heritage group and Green Infrastructure group will be meeting in January 2017.
Liaison has taken place between Feria-Urbanism and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council at a meeting also attended by Nichola Reay and Sarah Hamilton. A further meeting is scheduled for the new year (2017).
The interim findings from the working groups will contribute towards a public consultation event scheduled for February 2017. Following this event Feria-Urbanism and the Steering Group will be refining the outline plan which was published in 2016 and creating the first full Draft Plan.
In March 2017 a further two day consultation event will be held before the draft plan is prepared. The draft plan will go to formal consultation and then will be prepared for examination and a referendum.
The Steering Group has decided that, as well as posters and leaflet drops to advertise future consultation events, it is necessary to further raise the profile of the Neighbourhood Plan through Facebook. To this end the Steering Group are seeking to employ a professional to help them further develop Facebook over the next few months. Three tenders have been sought.
Progress reports are placed monthly in both Contact and the Town Crier. It has also been agreed that these can be placed on the Town Council noticeboards along with the meeting agendas. A list of dates for meetings in 2017 can also be found on the notice boards.
It is worth mentioning that at the last KALC meeting the representative from Hawkhurst said that although their Neighbourhood Plan has not yet gone to referendum their planning committee is already finding it extremely helpful when considering planning applications and the Borough Council is also taking it into account.
Currently a total of £9000 grant money is available to groups developing a Neighbourhood Plan. Paddock Wood has already applied for £8000 which has now been used up, leaving another £1000 still to be applied for.
The Neighbourhood Plan is featured prominently on the Town Council website where details of all agendas and minutes can be found as well as other key documents. There is also a link to the Feria-Urbanism website.
Town Council members will be aware of the call for sites by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and may have seen details of sites put forward as part of that process. These are currently being assessed by the Borough Council. There will be a further call for sites in the New Year, as the identified sites are unlikely to provide sufficient houses for the required supply.
Unlike in the past, when land was allocated with little if any community engagement, when the new Tunbridge Wells Plan goes forward our consultants will be engaged with it too. Neighbourhood Planning provides the chance for residents to be aware of, and involved in, the decisions. Residents are after all those who know the area best.
Given the scale of development Paddock Wood is likely to face in the future, the advantages of having our own local statutory document, rather than having change imposed on us by the Lead Authorities is surely self evident.
The Paddock Wood Neighbourhood Plan is moving forward alongside the Tunbridge Wells Plan and we hope that it will be completed by the end of the next financial year.
Secretary to the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group