VOTERS in Hythe and Dibden could go to the polls as early as October in a referendum to decide whether to accept a hyper-local set of development policies for their parish.
After four years of work, the area’s Neighbourhood Plan – the first in the New Forest to reach this stage – is ready to go out to local people with visions for local construction and infrastructure.
If approved, it means that the parish could also gain thousands of pounds in extra spending by retaining a quarter of the cash paid by developers via the Community Infrastructure Levy, which is collected as part of planning permissions.
Policies in the plan, which runs until 2026, will have to be considered by housebuilders putting forward schemes within Hythe and Dibden and by district councillors and planning officers making decisions.
However, before it can come into force it must be backed by a public vote of residents which is currently proposed for 29th October.
In the document’s foreword, former councillor Graham Parkes, chair of the local steering committee, said the work had been done amid fears the parish was not preparing enough to sustain itself as a “vibrant and sustainable” community.
He added: “I believe that this Neighbourhood Plan, that has required sometimes difficult decisions to be made, will ensure that the community of Hythe and Dibden will be able to contribute in a significant way into how the area evolves into the future.”
Aims include design that respects the local character and deters crime, a wider mix of housing to meet residents’ needs, and sustainable transport links – including preserving the Hythe ferry and a possible rail or tram link to Southampton.
A key feature is to push for a 500-metre “multifunctional green buffer zone” to be in place if Southampton port operator ABP ever gets permission for its controversial desire to turn nearby Dibden Bay into a container terminal.
Policies also seek to protect the overall amount of public green space, resist pollution and traffic congestion, boost internet connections, and deliver new allotments.
As reported in the A&T, the early version was criticised for not backing policies with enough evidence, and was required to delete a series of specific development sites and plans that would have required environmental assessment.
Fellow committee member Dan Poole said: “Hythe and Dibden is the first in the district to have completed their plan and, to my knowledge, the first parish council in the country to submit plans for a ‘buffer zone’ should any further development of Dibden Bay go ahead.”
The document has been approved by a government examiner, subject to required amendments, and now needs formal rubber-stamping by New Forest District Council.
Polices in the Neighbourhood Plan must adhere to wider rules held by NFDC and the national park authority in their own Local Plans.
The next step is for NFDC’s ruling cabinet to sign off the process on 4th September before the green light is finally given by the full council on 9th September – and the referendum can be set.
Other town and parish councils working on their Neighbourhood Plans are Lymington and Pennington, Totton and Eling, New Milton, and Milford.
To find out more go to www.newforest.gov.uk/article/14180/Neighbourhood-Planning.