Here we'll try to answer any general questions you have about neighbourhood planning. Just contact us with your question
Question: If new houses are built adjacent to the settlement boundary, will the boundary be extended and then more houses be built near the new boundary?
Answer: No. The boundary is set in the Breckland Local Plan and does not get amended each time new houses are built. For example the Warwick Farm development remains outside the settlement boundary. Incidentally we recently asked our consultant to advise if we can set an exact distance to what Breckland Council simply term "immediately adjacent to the settlement boundary, and will let you know what she says.
Question: How was it decided which buildings would be included in the Plan as non-listed but protected?
Answer: We started with the village and County heritage records and then applied criteria devised by Historic England to review potential buildings. You can find details of the criteria in the Plan's Evidence Volume 8. Should any householders like their property to be considered for protection under Policy 6, please get in touch with us.
Question: What happens if Breckland Council don't accept the wording of the policies or the Plan in general?
Answer: We don't have to accept Breckland Council's comments if we disagree with them. We have rejected a number of their previous comments which we considered were unreasonable and would have "watered down" the Plan. The final decision will rest with an independent government examiner when the Plan is submitted for his or her review after the second public consultation. The Parish Council will have a say in which examiner is selected and we are determined to avoid problems Swanton Morley recently had when Breckland ignored their choice of examiner.
Question: If a "health check" is carried out on the Plan, how will you choose an examiner to do it?
Answer: There are a limited number of examiners. We have read many examination reports for other villages' plans and have a good idea of which examiners are stricter than others. We would appoint one of the stricter ones, (a) to make sure all potential weaknesses in the Plan are identified before it goes to formal examination, and (b) because then that strict examiner would not be allowed to perform the formal examination and we might get an easier ride!
Update March 2018: Ann Skippers has been appointed to carry out a "health check" of the Plan and its 14 supporting documents in parallel with the Regulation 14 consultation.
Question: Will Breckland Council accept the language used in the policies to make sure nothing is left open to interpretation?
Answer: Based on our experience from two earlier informal reviews by Breckland's Neighbourhood Plan coordinator, probably not! Breckland planners seem to hate words such as "shall", "must", "will be" etc. We've heard from other parishes in the district how some of their policies have been watered down by Breckland Council. We think the way to avoid that is by having good evidence to justify the policy wording. Finding and collating that evidence is the main reason the Plan has taken us so long to prepare. But as a result of that effort we think we have much better evidence than most other neighbourhood plans we've read. Among other things that evidence includes references to Breckland's own local plan and the national rules and to other already approved plans from around the country which include similar policies to our own. Our consultant's review will tell us what other evidence we need and where to find it. The examiner health check will give us a good idea if our policy wording will be acceptable and if that check goes well we should be in a good position to argue against any attempts by Breckland Council to dilute our Plan. Meanwhile we'll keep sticking to our guns!
Question: Where can I find more detail about the Plan?
Answer: In the pages of this website - please use the menu at the top of each page or the site map here to navigate around the site. Additionally if there's anything we can clarify or explain further please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: From what date will Breckland Council's 5% limit for the number of new houses apply?
Answer: The limit will apply from the date the Breckland Local Plan is approved, which they have recently postponed till the fourth quarter of 2018. They will calculate it based on the number of houses within the village settlement boundary at that date, something they say they have information about but have not shared with us. So we have calculated the 5% limit based on all houses in the parish, meaning our result is slightly conservative, probably by one of two houses. Should Breckland Council ever publish a lower number as the limit we will reconsider our number.
Question: How was the minimum number of houses set at 15?
Answer: Breckland Council allocates 150 new homes to a total of 17 villages, including Saham Toney. Although we have repeatedly requested a specific allocation for Saham Toney and they had promised to provide it, they have yet to do so. Hence we had to decide a figure ourselves. We did that by comparing our population with the total population of all 17 villages. It works out as almost exactly 10%, so in the absence of any other information we decided 10% of the total allocation should be seen as reasonable and 10% of 150 = 15. However we still think the fairest way to decide individual village allocations would be for Breckland Council to organise a meeting of all 17 parish councils to discuss and agree them. Unfortunately Breckland Council have already refused that a number of times and seem unlikely to change their mind.
Update March 2018: As part of the Plan's update for its Regulation 14 consultation we have decided it is wise to include a proposed government factor for deciding the number of new homes in an area. It's based on the ratio of house prices to earnings in an area, and for Breckland it's approximately 1.26 (Did you know average houses prices in the district are more than 8 times average earnings?) So instead of 15, we have increased the lower limit to 19 new homes. Read Policy 1 of the Plan for full details.
Question: If a single new building consisted of five one bed-room flats rather than one five bed-room house, how would that count towards our share of the housing allocation?
Answer: In the local plan Breckland Council allocates new dwellings rather than new buildings. Therefore our understanding is that five one bed-room flats in a single building would count as 5 towards our allocation.
Question: Do new homes being built or approved now count towards our allocation?
Answer: Unfortunately not, since the local plan says the allocation begins when that plan is approved. However we will be looking at ways to justifying a reduction in our allocation based on the number of houses built or approved during the time we wait for the local plan to be approved. Since we rather than Breckland Council have set the specific allocation for the village there is some chance we will be able to do that.
Update March 2018: The latest version of our Plan says that our limit on new homes (between 19 and 48) will apply from 31 December 2017. We wait to see if Breckland Council and an examiner will accept that.
Question: Can the Plan specify what type of homes are built?
Answer: We have found this is the most frustrating (and we could say unfair) part of the national planning rules we have to comply with! All that is generally allowed is to specify that a percentage of new homes must be affordable. But... as many of you know "affordable" simply means 80% of the market value, and that does nothing to help our youngsters, or those from outside the village who'd like to live here buy a home. Add to that, we can't even set that criteria as it can only be applied to sites of more than ten houses, and our Plan does not allow those. We have included the possibility of what's known as "rural exception sites" which have to be all affordable homes, but there's nothing to allow us to impose that on developers. The Plan does encourage developers to discuss their ideas with the Parish Council before they submit an application, and if they do the Council can push for cheaper homes, for example starter homes for locals, to be included as a condition of their support. But much as we'd like to, we're simply not allowed to rigidly dictate what size of home can be built here.
Update March 2018: Thanks to our consultant's help we have now included a specific policy (2B) dealing with this, which sets out requirements for smaller and affordable homes. Evidence Volume 4 explains why we think it's justified.
Question: Would it be possible to give a presentation on the Plan, slightly less formal, but all the same informative, to a small group of older residents who are not always able to attend organised village events, perhaps at the home of one of them?
Answer: We want as many parishioners as possible to be involved with the Plan and so will be happy to consider all suggestions for providing information, either as the questioner proposes, or any other ways people can think of; for example to village clubs or other organised gatherings. Just get in touch with us with a concrete suggestion and we'll get back to you.