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Village Plan Referendum: 19 April

29 Mar 2018

On behalf of Tom Dufty:

As you probably know I had to pull out of helping to develop the plan two years ago so I write this simply as a resident.

Over the past six months the plan has been going through the legal approval process. Now, your parish councils approve it; the National Park Authority & District Council approve it; and recently the Independent Examiner has approved it. Indeed the latter has said that some parts of it are models of their kind.

We are now at the final, critical, stage – The Referendum. On April 19th we are invited to cast our vote for or against the plan. A simple majority will determine whether it is accepted or rejected.

The plan is in two parts. The first is 'Land Use Policies' and includes matters covered in the Localism Act. Therefore, if we adopt the plan, this part has statutory force. The second is termed 'Community Aspirations'. This is a wish list of policies, drawing on the community surveys conducted. They don't have statutory force but will act as a guide to proactive decision-making by our Councils.

It will not surprise you to learn that I support the plan wholeheartedly.

We are not forced to have one. The Localism Act gives us the opportunity to have one. We could carry on as before where every decision our councils make is made in a vacuum and is therefore reactive. There is no context in which to place it: no pre-determined vision or strategy to justify it. Each is a one-off. Our councils are therefore open to making decisions in response to those who speak the loudest or to groping in the dark because nobody has spoken up.

The opportunity the plan offers is a vision and strategy, developed by the community, that looks ahead and determines how we want to see our parishes change. It provides the vital context our councils need to make decisions. I find it easier simply to call it a template. If a proposed change doesn't fit, reject it. If it does fit accept it. No change has never been an option. Better the change that we have predetermined, that preserves those things that we most prize, than change that comes about by default.

This plan provides for some of our greatest needs, notably affordable housing and the preservation of key open spaces. Yes, some hard choices have had to be made, but better that the community makes them than others. I am also delighted that the three parishes of Ditchling, Streat and Westmeston have united to produce it. To read it you can:

  1. Access it by website: www.beaconvillagesplan.co.uk

  2. View hard copies in: The Ditchling Post Office, The Ditchling Health Centre, the Ditchling Parish Council Office (in the village hall, open Tuesdays 10.00 to 11.30)

There have been cases in the media when neighbourhood plans have seemingly been ignored by Councils or a Secretary of State with decisions made at variance with their contents. In 90% of the cases those plans were in the draft stage and had not gone through the approval process, let alone a referendum. If, once approved, decisions are made at variance with the statutory elements then a community can resort to a judicial review.

So please note in your diary – April 19th The Referendum. I hope that you will vote 'yes' but do please vote. Urge others to do the same. If you like forward this.

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