THE people of New Milton will be asked to vote on whether to back a proposed future vision for their town that could unlock extra funding.
Led by the town council, a Neighbourhood Plan has been drafted for the area, including Barton, setting out ultra-local policies for sites to develop or protect, design quality, and projects that could be paid for with the extra cash.
New Forest District Council formally gave its approval at a meeting of the ruling cabinet, clearing one of the final hurdles towards a referendum set to be held later this year.
As reported in the A&T, Hythe and Dibden successfully approved their Neighbourhood Plan last October after a ballot in which less than 15% of voters turned out.
Although the documents are not binding, planning authorities must pay regard to their policies and have good reasons for breaking them.
They also entitle the area to 25% of the money from Community Infrastructure Levy payments from developers gaining planning permission locally.
New Milton’s has been on the drawing board since 2016 and includes a vision by 2036 of a regenerated and diverse town centre, new cultural hub in place of the Memorial centre, affordable housing for younger people, and charging stations for electric vehicles.
Specifically it asks for developments of 100 homes or more to contain some plots for self-builders, plus first-time buyers, renters, and downsizing homes for older people. About 250 homes could be added to the town centre, plus more business and health investment.
Designs could include communal gardens and address climate change, and improve access via foot, bicycle and public transport. Seventy-five flats could be built on the south side of the train station, the plan suggests.
Also mentioned was the IncuHive business centre at the A&T site, and its photography and film studio, workshop and flexible office space. Development proposals in the town that lose employment space should only go ahead if proved it could not competitively sustain a business, it added.
NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman said: “I hope as we take this forward and go on to have the second referendum in the New Forest we can encourage the public to participate – even if it’s something they do not want.”
Cllr Christine Ward, who is also a member of New Milton Town Council, said: “I want to acknowledge the incredible amount of work that’s gone into it.
“It’s an amazing submission plan and a good example for any town or parish who are considering doing it in the future.”
New Milton’s Neighbourhood Plan has been assessed by NFDC, the national park authority and an independent examiner to make changes to ensure it is sound and does not conflict with existing policies.
The referendum is expected to be held later this year after NFDC has adopted its new Local Plan containing district-wide planning policies.
To find out more go to www.newforest.gov.uk/newmiltonneighbourhoodplan.