Northampton neighbourhood plan concerns are 'speculative' and 'misguided' says council

Councillor Jane Birch, left has supported plans for a neighbourhood plans in Queen's Park.
Councillor Jane Birch, left has supported plans for a neighbourhood plans in Queen's Park.

Plans to designate an area of Trinity, Kingsthorpe and Semilong as suitable for a neighbourhood plan are set to get the go-ahead this week despite concerns from several residents.

Last year community leaders in Queen's Park stated an interest in forming a new neighbourhood plan for the area.

Such a plan would set the ground rules for any developers wanting to build in that part of the town, which has in recent years seen a number of out-of-keeping developments change the appearance of the area.

Local government law dictates a forum must be established to bring the plans forward in areas where there is no parish council.

The boundaries of the neighbourhood area must also be set.

This week, Northampton Borough Council is set to approve the 21-member forum and the designated area, which incorporates parts of the Trinity, Kingsthorpe and Semilong Wards.

However, the council has chosen to dismiss the concerns of some residents who objected to the inclusion of Thornton Park within the boundary.

Of the 39 people that sent in comments about the proposed neighbourhood boundary, 11 objected on that principle alone.

According to an analysis of the responses, residents in Kingsthorpe village were worried that, as they fell outside the neighbourhood plan, they would not get a say on future decisions related to Thornton Park.

But the council is set to allow the forum to go ahead on the basis that the "content of the representations indicate(s) a lack of understanding about the neighbourhood planning process and the benefits that can be brought to a Neighbourhood Area."

Papers for the borough council's cabinet meeting next Wednesday state: "The principle concern expressed is that if the Thornton Park is positioned within the neighbourhood area, members of the community external to that boundary will have no say in matters affecting the future of it.

"There is clearly a strong feeling of affection towards the Thornton Park but the fear from local people that they may be excluded from taking part in developing ideas to revive it are speculative and misguided; this is not how Neighbourhood Planning works."

The neighbourhood plan will seek to protect the allotments at Queen Park, restrict the height of any new buildings and protect Thornton Park.

While those falling outsisde the boundary will not be able to vote in the referendum on the final plans - anyone with interest in Thornton Park can join the neighbourhood forum, which will help form the plans.

Councillor Jane Birch (Lab, Trinity) who helped establish the forum, said the boundary "has to stop somewhere."

"As the plan is being made, anyone that has an interest in the area - that includes people who use Thornton Park for running and playing - anyone can join the forum."

"By the time we come to the referendum everyone should be in agreement, because the plan will have been grown by the people."

Northampton Borough Council's cabinet will vote on the plans at its next meeting at the Guildhall on Wednesday, April 11.