Residents seek to torpedo 'largest' community plan

A group of disgruntled residents hope to secure the first 'no' vote in a neighbourhood planning referendum to block what would be England's largest community-made blueprint.

Winsford: action group urges “no” vote in referendum on plan that would see 3,362 homes built on 24 sites in town to 2030
Winsford: action group urges “no” vote in referendum on plan that would see 3,362 homes built on 24 sites in town to 2030

Residents of Winsford, a town of 32,000 in Cheshire, go to the polls on 23 October to vote on the town council’s neighbourhood plan. The document would allocate 3,362 homes on 24 sites across the town up to 2030.

However, some of the housing sites on greenfield land have been opposed by residents. Particular concerns have been raised over an urban extension, the Station Quarter, on 53 hectares of agricultural land, involving 1,051 homes and 22 hectares of open space.

The Save Rilshaw Action Group is urging residents to vote "no" in the referendum. John Doherty, a group spokesman, said: "We hope that the people living in Winsford will see through the smoke and mirrors.

"A neighbourhood plan does not have to include allocated housing and can and should be used as a tool to provide better town facilities and infrastructure."

He added that the group feels that the plan "virtually guarantees that developers will be unchallenged". He argued that initial consultation "didn’t properly involve local communities".

Winsford Town and District Council member Brian Clarke, who chaired the neighbourhood plan steering group, refuted the suggestion that consultation was inadequate.

He said: "I’m hoping residents will vote yes. But I’m never confident until it’s all over. You have to keep going."

Clarke said a "big" drive for a yes vote has started independently of the town council, which is not allowed to campaign before the referendum.

He said: "The silent majority is saying we think this is the best plan for Winsford. We’ve got the perfect opportunity to grow our town in a proper sustainable manner."

The Winsford plan passed examination in August. In response to concerns over consultation, examiner Charles Mynors said he was "satisfied ... that the statutory requirements have been complied with".

Meanwhile, another parish plan in South Oxfordshire, the adopted Thame and District Neighbourhood Plan, has also faced local opposition.

The document, which was made by South Oxfordshire District Council in July last year, proposes 775 homes up to 2027 on seven different sites around the town. This includes 45 homes in The Elms field, in the Thame Conservation Area.

The Save The Elms campaign group objected to the site’s inclusion and has launched a petition calling for its removal and a second referendum.

But last week, neighbourhood plan body Thame Town Council voted against the demand. According to the town council, the meeting heard from South Oxfordshire Council planning officer Beryl Guiver who said a sound policy reason would be needed to amend the plan and there had been no material change in circumstances.

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