June/July Bracknell District News Update 1
Positive news on two neighbourhood plans and embracing the new virtual planning meeting system
Neighbourhood plans in Bracknell Forest
Two neighbourhood plans (NPs) have passed examination by independent planning inspectors. Once final requested modifications are made, they can go to their local communities to approve via a referendum. Although Covid-19 regulations mean all referendums are delayed until 6 May 2021, NPs that have passed examination carry weight for determining planning proposals.
The Crowthorne NP and supporting documents received a lot of praise for clarity. The Examiner said the NP’s design meant ‘it will comfortably be able to take its place as part of the [Borough’s] development plan’. The Examiner also highlighted how an evidence-based ‘excellent’ Design Guide underpinned the NP’s ‘very clear focus on safeguarding [Crowthorne’s] attractive character’. Consultation during NP development – the bedrock of neighbourhood planning – came in for much praise, along with the clear and full explanation of the consultation process, which led him to conclude: ‘The wider community and the Parish Council have spent time and energy in identifying the issues and objectives that they wish to be included in their Plan’.
Examination of the Bracknell Town NP saw it evolve from a discursive initial submission into the final version. While the initial version was an informative and engaging ‘read’, the Examiner felt it needed to be [and guided its transformation into] ‘a more focused planning document’. He commended the Town Council for responding positively to his suggestions. Importantly, he felt it remains ‘recognisable as the neighbourhood plan that was submitted and had been consulted upon’. He described the final version as a ‘distinctive Bracknell specific plan which recognises its New Town legacy, reflecting the importance of the woodland setting of much of its residential areas, respecting the distinctive character of individual neighbourhoods’.
Watch Bracknell Forest Planning
A small silver lining of the Covid-19 disaster is being able to observe Council meetings from the comfort of home. Online meetings provide an opportunity for anyone interested to see how Council business is conducted.
Planning Committee meetings are generally held on the third Thursday of every month. Instructions on how to ‘join’ are straightforward. They are included on each meeting agenda, and also here
Many Councils have shrunk councillor numbers and process for online meetings, sometimes raising queries about the democratic process. But not in Bracknell Forest. For Planning Committee meetings, all 18 members can (and do) attend, plus other interested Councillors, and relevant planning officers for each item. Normal process for a community representative to address the meeting is also being followed. This, officer presentations, and Councillor questions and subsequent discussions proceed much as before and (comfort aside) meetings feel little different to ‘normal’ – including not always agreeing with decisions.