VOTERS have backed a set of hyper-local planning policies in Hythe and Dibden – although less than a fifth actually turned out to cast their ballots.
It means the 77-page document will now be formally adopted to help guide planning decisions, as well as unlocking extra cash for the parish from developers’ contributions.
The result on Tuesday was 2,019 votes in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan versus 346 against, on a turnout of just under 15%.
The set of policies is the first of its type in the New Forest to clear the final hurdle. More are being drawn up by town and parish councils in Lymington and Pennington, New Milton, Totton and Eling, and Milford. Ringwood is also debating whether to start one.
Although not binding, the guidelines must now be considered by developers and New Forest District Council when making applications and planning decisions.
Key elements of the plan include a 500-metre “multifunctional green buffer zone” if Southampton port operator ABP ever gets permission for its controversial desire to turn nearby Dibden Bay into a container terminal.
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.
Policies also seek to protect the overall amount of public green space, resist pollution and traffic congestion, boost internet connections, and deliver new allotments.
Work on Hythe and Dibden’s Neighbourhood Plan was started on a cross-party basis of councillors, residents and charities in 2016, before the Liberal Democrats took complete control of the parish council at the local elections in May this year.
Cllr Malcolm Wade, parish council chair, said: “It is an excellent achievement for the parish council to now have a local community based plan for Hythe and Dibden to show how much we care about how our community develops for the benefit of local people.
“My thanks go out to all those, who contributed to it. Once again Liberal Democrat Hythe and Dibden leads the way.”
Cllr Dan Poole, a Conservative member of the steering committee, said: “One of the most important aspects of the plan is the ‘buffer zone’ proposal for any potential future development of Dibden Bay.
“We believe this is the first one approved in the UK and a lot of work went into this by the sub-committee and the council staff, notably the clerk to the council, Stephanie Bennett.”
He was critical of what he described as the parish council’s “failure” to promote the plan since May but said he was “delighted” that it had been voted through by residents.
Neighbourhood Plans were introduced by former Prime Minister David Cameron’s Localism Act in 2011.
As reported in the A&T, last week Cllr Wade rejected a call by New Forest East Labour Party’s Adam Barak to cancel the referendum to consult residents more widely and redraft what he attacked as “Disneyland” proposals.
In the run-up, the principle of Neighbourhood Plans was also criticised by NFDC’s Lib Dem opposition group leader Cllr David Harrison, who warned government policy would likely overrule local guidelines.
In Tuesday’s referendum there were 2,381 votes cast, of which 16 were spoilt, out of an overall electorate of 16,349.
To find out more go to www.newforest.gov.uk/article/14180/Neighbourhood-Planning.