NEIGHBOURHOOD FORUM UPDATE 16
Midsummer’s Day, England’s premature, but predictable, exit from the World Cup in Brazil and the local elections are all now behind us. Never mind, the second half of the year beckons: there are summer holidays to anticipate and, hopefully, some decent barbecue weather at home too.
Meanwhile, the work of the Neighbourhood Forum continues apace and there is much to be achieved over the next few months as the Forum’s Steering Group gets down to the business of preparing the Neighbourhood Plan against a challenging timetable. More on the plan’s production later in this update but first a cautionary tale.
Earlier this month the Chairman of the Chobham Neighbourhood Plan Group warned that unless more support and involvement was forthcoming from local residents in carrying through the work to produce a neighbourhood plan, the village could find itself at the mercy of Surrey Heath Borough Council and assorted developers.
Producing a plan takes time - two to three years from start to finish seems to be about the norm - and the willing commitment of volunteers combined with the support of the local community.
Nationally, neighbourhood planning appears to be enjoying a good deal of success with plans securing approval from independent examiners and going on to win majority support from communities through a local referendum which is required by the 2011 Localism Act.
Fortunately, we have a group of individuals who are focused on ensuring that the plan for Hook Heath succeeds (it goes without saying, however, that more volunteers will always be welcome) but ultimately the outcome will depend on the support the plan receives from the local community when residents cast their votes in a referendum.
Back to the future
A provisional timetable has been prepared for the production of the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Plan which, if all goes well, should see a local referendum taking place in September next year. Final details on timing and document production have still to be finalised but that is our objective.
We have taken the first steps in the necessarily lengthy process of assembling our documentation but there is a substantial amount of work to be completed over the next few months. The Forum’s Steering Group will be meeting on 2 July to look ahead and agree a firm timetable.
Over the past few months we have been helped in our work by our mentors at Locality who have provided us with advice and guidance on the way in which we should approach the development of policies and production of a neighbourhood plan. Their assistance will continue to be available to us under the terms of a Government-sponsored programme.
Meanwhile, we have decided that it would also be sensible to obtain the input of a qualified town planner who has already examined several neighbourhood plans. Nigel McGurk has agreed to review our documentation and, all being well, he should be able to assess our plan documentation towards the end of this year.
Forum EGM & AGM
At our recent Forum meeting on 11 June we adjourned the meeting briefly in order to hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to consider and vote upon a short resolution to change the Forum accounting year from 31 March to 30 September. This constitutional refinement was passed unanimously and will enable us to hold an AGM on a date more closely aligned with the first anniversary of the Forum’s formal designation. The AGM, therefore, is likely to be held in November and the date will be confirmed shortly.
WBC’s Green Belt Review
The review of the Green Belt commissioned by Woking Borough Council is expected to be published soon. The public consultation on its contents, however, is likely to take several months and it is possible that it may not be finalised much before the end of next year. The minutes of the last Forum meeting provided a useful summary of recent developments, including an account of a meeting with representatives of Martin Grant Homes. The company owns approximately 40 acres of land at the foot of the escarpment and along Saunders Lane and Hook Hill Lane.
The Mayford Village Society (MVS) has convened a special meeting of its members to consider the potential implications of the release of some or all of this land from the Green Belt and to allow its development. The MVS, supported by the Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum, is opposed to any move to remove the Green Belt status. Watch this space.
Support for, and interest in, the Forum has grown steadily, if unspectacularly, over the past few months so it is pleasing to report that at the June Forum meeting we welcomed the 300th person to register their interest in the Forum. We are keen to see the numbers continue to grow so please encourage friends and neighbours to register by visiting our website at: www.hhra.co.uk/hookheathforum and enter their details on the on-line form. It is a very straightforward process and there is no membership fee involved.
Chris Bore, a member of our Open Spaces Working Group, is also a very active supporter of the St Johns Memorial Hall Association and was heavily involved in the events surrounding the recent opening of the new hall on St Johns Lye. The Association is keen to encourage residents to become members of the Association - currently free membership is being offered. A membership application form can be downloaded from the Association’s website at: www.stjohnsmemorialhall.co.uk
Chris is also looking to recruit six players to form a Hook Heath Easy Cricket team (the Heathens) to play in a competition at the St Johns Community Games on the Lye on 19 July. Details can be viewed on the Hook Heath Residents’ Association website at: www.hhra.co.uk or if you would like learn more about Easy cricket, please contact Chris on:
The next meeting of the Forum will be on Wednesday 17 September at De Vere Venues Gorse Hill, commencing at 7.30 pm. Please make a note of the date. It will be a good opportunity to learn of the progress being made in the production of the plan and I hope to see you there.
Congratulations to the leader of the WBC, Councillor John Kingsbury who was re-elected to represent the St Johns and Hook Heath ward in the local election held in May.
Thank you for your interest and support and enjoy the summer.
Chairman, Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum
Hook Heath Neighbourhood Forum
an initiative of the Hook Heath Residents' Association
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