The ‘People have spoken’ in South Leigh.
South Leigh, 24th December 2018: The Parish of South Leigh has delivered a resounding 92.4 percent ‘Yes’ to adopt its Neighbourhood Plan at a referendum on Thursday, 20th December. More than 71 percent of the electorate turned out in the rain between 7:00am and 10:00pm.
Announcing the result, Chair of the Parish Council, Nicky Brooks, said, “This is a huge statement of solidarity by our community and a warning to property developers who might seek to ruin the essential rural nature of the Parish. It is an overwhelming democratic mandate that, in future, will give us a direct involvement in decisions affecting the Parish and its essential rural landscape. This is important both to local residents and to the wider population that enjoy its countryside”.
Mrs. Brooks said that the Neighbourhood Plan, which will now support the West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC’s) Local Plan, will help to prevent speculative planning applications like the recent attempt by Gladman Properties to impose some 3,000 houses on the agricultural landscape of the Parish. “The adopted Neighbourhood Plan will give us a real say in what might and might not be built, and comes with the power of a democratic vote of the vast majority of our residents”, Mrs. Brooks stressed.
The Parish Council Chair continued, “We are committed to our Community Vision, which is ‘to retain the character and existing strong sense of community and cohesion of the two settlements of South Leigh and High Cogges’”. She added, “This overwhelming vote shows unequivocally that the people have spoken”.
The process started on 1st March 2017 when the WODC formally authorised the South Leigh Parish Council to produce a Neighbourhood Plan. The Parish Council established a Neighbourhood Plan Committee and, after its preparation and the required public consultations, a draft plan was submitted to WODC and later accepted by an Independent Examiner. It was supported by 92.4% of voters at the public referendum on 20th December, 2018.
Under the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017, having exceeded the required 50 percent simple majority, it is now for the local planning authority to adopt the Neighbourhood Plan as part of its overall development plan and publish it on its website.
Since 2016 the Parish of South Leigh had been under intense threat of a proposed 3,000 or more houses to be built on open farm land south of the A40. The scheme was submitted by the Gladman Group that claimed that it had local support. After two years of strong resistance, the developer withdrew the scheme in November 2018.
South Leigh Parish is located 2½ miles south-east of Witney in Oxfordshire and flanks Limb Brook, a tributary of the River Thames. The community comprises principally two rural settlements, South Leigh and High Cogges. The 2011 census recorded 141 households and a population of 336.
Mrs. Brooks concluded, “The Parish Council thanks every resident involved and especially those who turned out until 10:00pm in the cold and rain to vote and to protect what we love. We will not be complacent and will use our experience and considerable expertise to fight other schemes that threaten the democratic wish of residents. With an adopted Neighbourhood Plan in our armoury, we will be much better equipped to protect our Parish to the benefit of all”.
Background notes for information:
A Neighbourhood Plan is a type of planning document which is part of the Government’s approach to planning, aiming to give local people more say about what goes on in their area. However, all Neighbourhood Plans must also be in line with higher level planning policy (Planning Policies), namely the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and, in the case of the Parish of South Leigh, a Neighbourhood Plan must also presently be aligned to the Saved Policies of the adopted 2011 West Oxfordshire District Council’s (WODC) Local Plan and the proposed Policies of the 2031 WODC Emerging Local Plan. (as appropriate collectively ‘WODC Local Plan’) .The overall requirement of any Neighbourhood Plan is a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
The Plan intends to ensure and safeguard the future of our Community (in this context meaning the residents of the Parish) as a small, vibrant, rural Parish while recognising that to maintain that vibrancy, the Community needs to plan for some limited new housing within the already built area in the Parish or areas adjacent thereto in order to allow a widening of demographics within the Parish whilst retaining its essentially polyfocal nature.
The Plan also includes sections on the environment and climate change, how to support local/home working, and employment, how to maintain and enhance services and facilities where possible and how to control traffic taking into account the fundamental nature and constraints of a rural Parish.