The Councils leadership is being recommended to reject a proposal which would have seen a joint neighbourhood plan prepared covering the Acomb and Westfield Wards. The proposal was widely criticised as being ”too big” to meet a key community of interest test.
The majority of respondents to the Councils consultation opposed the plan.
Opponents included the local residents association, an action group and the Westfield ward Councillors. (The Acomb Ward Councillors didn’t respond to the consultation)
A report points out the proposed population of the planning area at 23,440 is 4 x the optimum size of 5500 suggested by central; government legislation.
A council official claims that a parallel proposal to create a “Neighbourhood Forum” could be approved although the report fails to analyse claims that the governance structure of the proposed body is bogus. The forum was criticised by consultees as introducing unnecessary additional bureaucracy at least in the Westfield area where several residents groups already operate.
The report author concludes that a Neighbourhood Plan, including a revised “forum”, could be approved for the Acomb ward only.
We believe that the plan to exclude the Westfield area is correct.
However the proposal to jump to an “Acomb Ward only” model is premature. Such a move would rule out drawing up a neighbourhood plan for the Front Street area. Part of this district includes the Acomb Ward side of York Road which would be subject to a different plan under the new proposals.
No consideration has been given to including the area of land between the built-up area and the A1237 northern by pass) in any new arrangements, thereby failing to recognise the importance given by many residents in the area to the protection of open space.
The Council should simply reject the current ill-considered neighbourhood forum and plan proposals which are before it.
New proposals may then emerge which could be subject to re-consultation.