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September 2012

Public Meeting provides latest news and answers your questions - thanks everyone for coming along

Here are the interesting and varied questions you asked at the meeting.

Although the turnout was lower than in January the questions asked were all very pertinent to the current stage of the project.  The people there were interested and had taken note of the information given about the NDP process so far. 

Q:  There are are approximately 11,500 residents in Bookham, how many of them can vote in the referendum to accept or refuse the Neighbourhood Development Plan?

A:  Anyone over 18 years of age, although younger residents can take part in the consultations and provide input into the plan before it is voted on.

Q:  What is the approximate time frame for producing the Neighbourhood Development Plan? 

A:  The current project plan estimates that the NDP will take 18 months to produce.  We will try to shorten that if possible,  but there is a lot of work to do.

Q:  Will issues other than housing be looked at in detail?  The supply of business parks and their location is of great interest to me in particular.

A:  The business group of the Task Force is preparing background information and data to try to discover what business needs should be met in Bookham, including retail, homeworking, industrial and small business requirements.  The business aspect of the NDP will start to be discussed by the Forum in April 2013.

Q:  Publicity and engagement are important, particularly when it comes to the referendum.  How can we ensure that everyone has the knowledge and the chance to vote?

A:  Mole Valley District Council will run the referendum.   It will be run along the same lines as local council/political voting, using usual polling stations etc.  It is currently envisaged that voting could take place at the same time as political voting, but if the Draft Plan is produced at a time that does not fit with the local elections, the referendum may have to be stand-alone.

Q:  What happens to planning policy for Bookham if the referendum is negative and people vote against it?

A:   Then whole process stops and control reverts to Mole Valley.  So, there is a big incentive for us to get it right, if we want to have a say in planning for Bookham’s future.  But, ultimately, if the local community don’t agree then the planning process reverts to policies covered by the LDF for Mole Valley, without any particular local input or policies for Bookham

Q:  Regarding the referendum,  do we vote on the whole plan only?  What if we agree with some parts but not others?

A:    Yes, the policies in the NDP are dealt with in their entirety, just as you would for the manifesto of a political party or local councillor.  This is detailed in the DCLG regulations for holding a referendum,has defined this.  Note:  a link to the DCLG regulations for holding a Neighbourhood Planning Referendum is available on the Bookham Vanguard website info & links page

Q:  Bookham has high use of social media.  What is currently being used and how can it be broadened?

A:    We are currently using the internet with a website, an email newsletter is being circulated regularly and we have a twitter account in use.  We hope to find more ways to use social networks and will use these techniques of engagement as much as possible.

Q:   Are we the only area doing an NDP in Mole Valley?  

A:   At the moment Bookham is the only one in the process of producing one, but there is interest in starting the process in Westcott, Ockley, and possibly Ashtead, although none have committed yet.  The reason for Bookham being asked if they would like to be a frontfunner for the NDP process was Bookham Vision, this will be used as a large part of the evidence base for the Plan and was already in place when the Localism Bill and Neighbourhood Planning  were brought into being by the coalition government.

Q:  Regarding infrastructure, if the Plan only covers planning for Bookham what about the needs of neighbouring areas such as Fetcham and Effingham?

A:  We realise that there are resources and services that are shared amongst a wider area than just Bookham and we will include our neighbouring  Parish Councils and Community Groups in all matters that affect them, especially with regard to health and education provision.

A:  No community is an island, we have a duty to cooperate with surrounding areas, but we won't do their work for them, Mole Valley will do that, but we can provide the information required that takes Fetcham and Effingham into account.

Q:  What will be included in the evidence base for the NDP?

A:  We are using Bookham Vision data, which is extensive, although it doesn't cover every aspect of development and planning needs in Bookham.  Where there are gaps in the data, Mole Valley and other sources can be used to provide a wider base.  We will be looking at all possible sources as they are needed.

Q:  Can Mole Valley Planning Authority veto any of the ideas put into the Plan?

A:  Yes and no,  the NDP for Bookham has to fit into the Local Development Framework in existence for the whole of Mole Valley and with the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, so we can't suggest something outside these policies.  Because of this, it is unlikely that the situation would arise.  The only other person who could say no to  any content in the Plan is the Independent  Inspector who must approve the Plan before it can go to referendum

Q:  Who will the Independent Inspector be and what does he do?

A:  The Inspector is appointed by Mole Valley to ensure that the Plan meets the DCLG and District Council conditions.  (Note: links to documents published by Mole Valley and the DCLG explaining the process involved in creating a NDP, having it inspected and then putting it to referendum are available on the info and links page).  The inspector also takes account that the Bookham NDP has to face the very local issues of Bookham, and nowhere else in Mole Valley.  For example the Plan could say Bookham needs this type of development to meet these particular needs and it is going to be delivered on this specific piece of land.  Inspection looks at all aspects of the proposals put forward, the evidence and land use.

Q:  What happens about planning proposals that are put forward by developers before the Plan is in place?

A:   Until the Plan is in place current planning policies are in place - so they will go through the Mole Valley planning process as usual.  In fact some have already come forward eg Gleesons have recently put forward ideas for housing on land off of the A246 at Bookham Fields.  But we are in touch with them and so far they are happy to wait for the NDP project to proceed and for them to be included in that process.

Q:  Once the Plan has been voted in, how long does it take for it to be put into effect?

A:  It will be presented at the very next meeting of the Council, and could be endorsed there and then.

Q:   After the NDP what happens to future planning applications?  

A:  All planning applications are received by Mole Valley and they have to conform not only to the Mole Valley LDF and government NPPF, but also with the Bookham NDP.

Q:  The Forum only last 5 years, what happens after that?

A:  It’s up to the community.  Bookham doesn’t have an elected parish council for consultation.  But if the community thinks a Parish Council is a good idea then they could go ahead and suggest it to Mole Valley.  Or another Forum could be put in place with some or all of the same members, if it is required, or deemed useful.

Q:  Will benefit from infrastructure levies on developers who build on land in Bookham?

A:  The Task Force is negotiating with Mole Valley and Surrey County Council to try to make sure that any infrastructure levy is spent in Bookham, but this will be part of future negotiations.

Q:  Your presentation shows that the majority of residents move into Bookham with children.  How will the need for school places be quantified/judged?

A:  This is not in the control of the NDP, but it can be quantified and communicated to Surrey County Council who prepare the future planning for school places.

Q:   Mole Valley Housing Association currently have plans they are putting forward for development  in Middlemead and Edenside.  Are Bookham Vanguard aware of them and are they working with MVHA on this?  What about infrastructure support for the new housing they are planning?  

A:  Members of BRA and the Bookham Vanguard Task Force are in direct consultation with them and will be meeting with them on 5th October.  They want to produce a result that is acceptable, and we want that too, and will take account of the increase in population that will ensue in the evidence base for the NDP. ( Note:  We recently published an update of the latest consultations by MVHA)

Q:  Could government policy change on localism before we get the Plan in place?

A:  Yes, it’s possible, we are not in control of government policy unfortunately (!), we can only carry on and respond appropriately if change happens.

Q:  Regarding the use of Bookham's infrastructure by neighbouring areas,  is there sufficient expertise in the Task Force to forecast the future needs?  Will the figures in the evidence base be professionally produced?  Or will it just be guesswork?  

A:  We are lucky to have very able people on the Task Force.  Roger Hutton, a retired ex-planning consultant, Neil McDonald who worked at DCLG as Director for Housing and Planning nationally.  Chris Attwood, whose work involves the analysis of figures and planning.  Michael Agius, a retired civil engineer specialising in infrastructure and Geoff Wright a currently working Chartered Surveyor.  (Note, go to the Task Force Members page for more details).  We also benefit from excellent support from Mole Valley and Surrey County Council.  So the expertise is there, and access is available to as much data as is required including the Office for National Statistics and other government bodies.