Sonning Common Neighbourhood Plan Review

 Frequently Asked Questions

General

Q1.      Why does Sonning Common need a Neighbourhood Development                           Plan (NDP)?

A.         Neighbourhood Development Plans (NDPs) provide local control over planning matters. The Localism Act of 2011 provides an opportunity for communities to help shape their own planning policies by creating an NDP.

In November 2011 Sonning Common Parish Council (SCPC) decided that an NDP Working Party should be established to develop an NDP for the village. The working party – consisting of parish councillors and volunteer residents – took on the task of developing the plan with support and guidance from professional consultants.

Without an NDP, planning policies for Sonning Common would continue to be formulated by authorities more remote from the local community.

Q2.      What difference will the NDP make?

A.         When Sonning Common’s NDP has been formulated – in consultation with residents – it will be put to a referendum and villagers will decide whether to accept or reject the plan. If the majority of people voting decide to accept the plan it will become legally-binding and decisions on planning applications, until 2027, will be based on it.

Sonning Common’s NDP will include policies on each specific site covering such issues as the number and type of homes, access, screening and wildlife corridors. It will also have proposals on traffic, amenity green space, recreation and the village centre.

If the NDP is not agreed then Sonning Common residents will have little control over planning developments in their own community.

Q3.      What is the role of the NDP working party?

A.         The working party is constructing an NDP for Sonning Common – in liaison with residents, landowners, developers, professional consultants and local authorities.

Current Government policy dictates that new homes must be built and 138 houses have been allocated to Sonning Common by the district council. The working party is consulting with villagers to find a practical, creative and sustainable solution to meet Sonning Common’s housing, employment, recreational and traffic/transport needs until 2027. (NB. A subsequent local government review could increase Sonning Common’s housing allocation and extend the NDP period to 2031).

Q4.      How can I keep track of how the NDP is evolving?

A.         You can attend any of the public meetings and exhibitions, which the working party hosts regularly in the village hall. You can keep up-to-date with the process via Sonning Common Magazine, the NDP website, village notice-boards, flyers to homes and businesses together with regular reports in the Henley Standard.

The NDP team considers residents’ views to be vital to the NDP design-making process. Write to: Barrie Greenwood, NDP chairman, c/o deputyclerk@sonningcommonparishcouncil.org.uk or Deputy Clerk, Sonning Common Parish Council, Village Hall, Wood Lane. Phone: Parish Office 0118 972 3616.

Q5.      Why does Sonning Common’s NDP matter to me?

A.         Sonning Common’s NDP matters to you because this is your community and by participating in the NDP design process you can help to shape its development.

The NDP working party is making every effort to ensure that the village’s emerging NDP will be fully consulted on and debated with residents and will include planning policies which are generally considered to be in the best interests of the village as a whole.

Q6.      Is the NDP just about houses? 

A. No, it is not. There are many aspects of life in Sonning Common which will be included. Traffic and parking issues will have to be resolved. Our lack of amenities such as further green space, a community hall/sports’ centre, sports’ pitches and more footpaths leading to the village centre will be considered. Employment and office accommodation needs will also be assessed as part of the NDP-planning process.

The sustainability of the village centre - through keeping businesses and services thriving - is a crucial consideration and is one of the reasons why certain sites within walking distance of the village centre have been short-listed. 

Q7.      How will the NDP help to ensure that Sonning Common can cope with the additional traffic - and associated parking issues - generated by the new homes?

A.         The NDP working party will lobby Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) to improve and increase off-road parking in Wood Lane and in Peppard Road by the shops. Speed limits along the B481 will be reduced and traffic calming measures introduced at entry points to the village, subject to agreement by OCC.

The NDP working party will consult with OCC Highways and its advisers about the viability of access points and the impact of increased traffic flows around all of the sites identified for development. In addition, the NDP’s Traffic Task Group will investigate potential traffic issues and recommend solutions.

Q8.      How will the local schools, health centre and dental surgery cope with                   extra people?

A.         The NDP working party has asked all of them this question. They have either spare capacity or they have strategies to cope with the extra numbers.

Q9.      Will any of the new homes be affordable and will local people have priority over obtaining them?

A.         Forty per cent of the new homes will be affordable, as required by SODC. This means the properties will be owned by registered social landlords or housing associations. The majority of these homes will be available to rent by people on SODC’s housing needs list, while a quarter will be offered on a part rent/part buy basis.

The NDP working party will consult with SODC over the allocation criteria for these homes and will seek to provide local people, as first priority, with as many homes as possible.

Sites

Q10.    How were the sites selected and the final short-listed sites chosen?

A.         All of the sites were identified to SODC, (not by the NDP working party), as having development potential. The NDP-planning process began with 14 potential sites. An additional site was included – Chiltern Edge School’s eastern playing field – when SODC added it to the list in the Spring of 2013 and, later, it was split into SONs 15a and 15b.

Residents were fully involved with assessing the suitability of these potential sites for development and conducted some 400 site, landscape and character assessment surveys, the results of which were independently audited. The survey results were then judged against objective planning criteria to establish which sites were the most suitable for development.

Possible development options were put to residents at the NDP public meeting on 19 July 2013 and their written feedback sought. Additionally, landowners, the Chilterns Conservation Board, as well as Kidmore End and Rotherfield Peppard Parish Council representatives, were consulted on the sites.

Since the NDP-planning process began:

·         three sites have been withdrawn by landowners (SONs 4, 13 & 14)

·         SONs 5, the outer part of SON 6, 10, 11, 12 and 15b have been excluded from the shortlist, based on evaluation, residents’ views and input from Chilterns Conservation Board

·         while SONs 1, 2, 3, 6 (part), 7, 8, 9 and 15a are under consideration for future development.*

(If included in Sonning Common’s NDP, SON 2 would be used for housing if an agreement was reached to retain SON 1 as amenity green space and develop a sports/community hall and sports’ pitches on SON 3. Part of SON 6 would be included as a linear development to join up numbers 56 and 80 Kennylands Road, while SON 8 would be for sports use only). 

*SON 1 – Old Copse Field; SON 2 – Bishopswood Middle Field; SON 3 – Memorial Hall Field; SON 6 (part) – Kennylands Infill; SON 7 – Hagpits; SON 8 – Thames Valley Gym; SON 9 – Lea Meadow; SON 15a – Chiltern Edge Top.

Q11.    What criteria have been used to assess the suitability of the short-listed sites?

Lengthy, objective planning criteria were used to evaluate each of the sites, which can be viewed on the NDP website.

Promoting the sustainability of the village centre was a key consideration so sites within walking distance of shops and services on Wood Lane were identified.

The results of the Sonning Community Plan Survey, distributed to 1800 households in 2010, were taken into consideration by the NDP working party. A total of 81 per cent of respondents said that if housing development had to take place, they preferred it to be spread around a number of small sites in the village rather than be concentrated on one or two large sites. 

Hence the NDP working party is recommending that development be spread around several sites within walking distance of the village centre. 

Q12.    Why has a school playing field been short-listed for inclusion in the NDP?

A.        Chiltern Edge School decided to offer part of its playing fields for development because it needs funds to upgrade school services and facilities. The school’s infrastructure has not been significantly improved by OCC over many years. Of the overall site offered, SON 15a has been approved for consideration as a short-listed site. Even if housing development eventually takes place on that site, the school will retain ample playing field space for its students.

Q13.    If new sites are proposed now will they be included in the NDP?

A.         No, there has to be a cut-off point for including sites otherwise the NDP could never be written, examined and voted upon. The NDP needs to be completed and approved so that it can shape housing developments in the village from 2017 to 2027.

Q14.    If new sites are developed before the NDP is in place will those new homes come off Sonning Common’s housing allocation?

A.        If a site identified to SODC as having development potential was approved without the consent of the NDP, which is unlikely, then any housing numbers so approved would be conducted from the allocation. Other smaller infill or backland developments, within the existing built limits of the village, would be classed as windfall applications and would not be deducted from the housing allocation, if approved. 

The Future

Q15.    Providing Sonning Common’s NDP is formally adopted by the village and SODC, following a successful referendum, what happens next?

A.         Current government policy requires Sonning Common to have built 138 new homes on allocation sites between now and 2027. The NDP will identify where these houses will be located, based upon the sites which have been put forward for consideration to date.

Should a future requirement arise from government to accommodate more homes on allocation sites, then reserve sites - to be nominated by the NDP and with appropriate conditions - may be deployed to meet that obligation. 

Following the referendum traffic and parking policies will be implemented; funds will need to be raised to build a community/sports’ hall (if SON 3 is made available); appropriate employment opportunities will be encouraged; and, as and when the opportunity arises, additional community facilities will be provided.

Q16.    How will the funds be raised?

A.         Funds will be available from levies placed on developers and from grants.