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Controversial million-pound village plans change approved by Richmond Council
A controversial move to make Village Planning part of the formal planning process was approved.
Last week Richmond Council agreed to spend £1.09m over the next two years to develop the borough’s Village Plans to include local planning guidance.
The Conservatives said the move will see residents get more involved in planning decisions and help shape their neighbourhoods in a straightforward and unbureaucratic way.
Liberal Democrats said there was limited demand for the plans and no benefits to the expensive initiative, which they said could be delivered more effectively and for less money through other means.
Councillor Martin Elengorn, opposition spokesman for environment and planning, said: "There is a serious danger that this new and very expensive initiative will mislead local communities into thinking policies at very local level can significantly depart from national, London-wide and borough-wide policies.
"They cannot. They have to be consistent with all these so the scope for manoeuvre is very limited."
The opposition party urged the council to instead consider neighbourhood plans, which can be Government funded and are a tried and tested model.
Coun Elengorn said: "So far the only example of this course being embarked upon in the borough is in Ham and Petersham where there are very specific issues to be addressed.
"In the rest of the borough there is very limited demand for neighbourhood plans.
"Rather than throwing £1m at a problem which has not been shown to exist it would be more sensible to learn from the experience of the Ham and Petersham Neighbourhood Plan process and take it from there."
Richmond’s cabinet member for environment, Councillor Pamela Fleming, said the initiative would provide a chance to consider planning matters holistically with a joined up approach to protect neighbourhood's’ heritage.
She said: "It is not for the council however to determine what each area should look like today, tomorrow or in the future.
"Our mission is to be a borough where residents can influence the shape of their local neighbourhood and over the next few weeks and months we will be working hard to engage with as many residents as possible to do this."
A parallel approach in Ham and Petersham has been given the green light after a neighbourhood forum was approved by the council.
Under the Localism Act, groups can apply to the council and create planning proposals which will ultimately be approved through a referendum.
Council improvements in the pipeline for Ham will still go ahead as the group develops their plan for the area.
Coun Fleming, who has championed the Village Planning initiative, said: “Whilst this is a slightly different approach to our Village Planning process, it is very much in line with the council’s ethos of putting people first.”
Andrew Beedham from the neighbourhood forum was pleased the council had approved the project, which had been heavily supported by local people from the start.
He said: “This truly is a bottom-up approach to planning for the future of our community.”
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