Hook Heath vision of local plan to become a reality

THERE was no narrow margin in Hook Heath last week when residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of Woking’s premier Neighbourhood Plan.

More than three years in the making, the borough’s first ever referendum on a local plan, which took place on Thursday (October 8) – the same day as the by-elections for the Goldsworth East and West wards –  secured a massive 94.5 per cent backing.

The Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum’s Chairman, Peter Hill, said: “I was delighted the plan received such a strong level of support, attracting a 39 per cent turnout.

“I hope that other groups in the borough currently in the process of developing plans for their neighbourhoods will be encouraged by the result we have achieved.”

Woking Borough Council will formally adopt the Hook Heath template at its meeting on Thursday (October 22), when it will form part of the authority’s Development Plan through to 2027 and will be used to help determine applications in the neighbourhood.

Stemming from an initiative by the local residents’ association, the process has taken almost three years from conception to completion.

Policies covering the built environment, open spaces and local infrastructure have been progressed by a small steering group based on feedback from residents and two formal periods of public consultation.

Legislation requires that a final version of a Neighbourhood Plan must be submitted for independent scrutiny by a leading planning consultant. Following examination earlier this year, the consultant recommended the plan be moved forward to a referendum vote, subject to a small number of modifications.

Underlying the plan’s objectives is the maintenance and enhancement of the area’s distinctive and special residential character
to provide a safe, pleasant and sustainable environment for the community.

Mr Hill added: “The commitment and hard work of the steering group, allied to the support we have received from residents, has enabled us to produce a plan that realises that vision. I believe it will be of real and lasting benefit to the community.”

Turnout in the Hook Heath area was 39 per cent of the 1,461 people eligible to vote in the referendum, with 545 residents voting for the plan while 32 (5.5 per cent) were against it. It was the 100th referendum of its kind to be held in the UK. After officially accepting the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Plan next week, Woking Borough Council must take it into account whenever determining planning applications for the area.

Neighbourhood planning was introduced under the Localism Act 2011. It aims for communities to play an active role in how land within a designated area is used and developed where they live.

The objectives must meet the basic conditions of national planning policy; contributing to the achievement of sustainable development and, in general, conform with local strategic policies, EU obligations and human rights requirements.

Plans should not promote less development than set out in the Local Plan or undermine its strategic policies.

The next AGM of the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum will be held on Wednesday, November 18 at De Vere Venues, Gorse Hill, Hook Heath Road, starting at 7.30pm.

The Hook Heath Neighbourhood Plan and supporting documents can be accessed via the web now at hhra.co.uk/hookheathforum.

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