Thursday, 17 March 2016

Neighbourhood Planning: an example from Exeter St James

The Sid Valley NP Steering Group will be meeting for the first time very soon:
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood Plan >>> Steering Group to hold its inaugural meeting

See the Town Council's pages:
NeighbourHood Plan - Sidmouth Town Council

There are some very inspiring perspectives of the NP process:
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood planning @ Frome Town Council >>>
Futures Forum: Neighbourhood Planning and Transition initiatives >>> >>> an update

A very similar and very inspiring NP has emerged from the Exeter neighbourhood of St James:

St James Neighbourhood Plan

See a copy of the final Plan... and supporting documents

1.0 Introduction
What is Neighbourhood Planning?
The Government is encouraging communities to prepare Neighbourhood Plans to influence planning policy in their areas. Residents Associations and individuals, representing most parts of St James, have come together as the Exeter St James Forum with the aim of preparing a Neighbourhood Plan.
Once completed, Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, landowners and developers will take the plan into account when making planning and development decisions.
Exeter St. James Forum
Why: Regulations require a forum to be set up to prepare, publicise and manage the process for creating a Neighbourhood Plan.
Who: The Forum was set up at a public meeting in May 2011, with a unanimous vote to go ahead. At today’s first AGM, officers of the Forum will be elected to serve for the next year. Membership of the Forum is open to residents of St James and to all who work in or have a stake in the future of the ward. Join us today if you are not already a member or associate.
How: With the support of Exeter City Council, we received Front Runner funding from the Government towards the costs of the Neighbourhood Planning process. Task groups of volunteer members and associates gathered the evidence on which the draft plan is based.
Once completed, a referendum in 2012/early 2013 will be held for all voters in St James to decide if they want the Neighbourhood Plan to be adopted. It’s your Neighbourhood Plan. You can say yes or no.
Exeter St. James – context
Exeter is a successful and growing city with a strong University and thriving City Centre. St James sits directly between the University and the City Centre with the character of the area and people that live there making big contributions to the city.
In the past, the importance of St James as a great living environment, close to jobs, education, green space and services has not been fully recognised. Urban development has had an impact on areas adjacent to the City Centre whilst the conversion of family homes to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) has changed the character and balance of the community.
The Neighbourhood Plan will seek to ensure that the ward continues to be a great place to live. It will do this by:
• Clearly setting out the community’s vision for the area
• Supporting the Council’s desire to restrict HMO development
• Encouraging the right development in the right place
• Setting out how the natural environment, streets and spaces can be improved
• Encouraging development that creates the new homes and new businesses of a type supported and needed by the community
• Setting out how the community would like to see transport issues dealt with in and around St James.

2.0 The vision
St. James, a balanced and vibrant neighbourhood
The Neighbourhood Plan seeks to ensure that St. James is a vibrant and balanced neighbourhood and a great place to live close to the City Centre and University. It will be known for its strong and diverse community, rich urban character, attractive green streets and spaces and thriving natural environment. It will be safe and enjoyable to move around on foot and bike and will be well connected to the rest of Exeter by public transport. The cluster of community buildings, shops and green spaces along Well Street, York Road and Longbrook Street together with the green space at Queens Crescent will be seen as the centre of St James, the heart of the neighbourhood where the diverse population can come together.
Achieving the Vision
To help achieve the Vision, the Neighbourhood Plan will set out a range of policies and projects to help shape how development is brought forward in St. James
What are policies?
Policies are statements of what the community would like to see happen in St James. They are intended to encourage third parties who might invest / develop in St James to work in accordance with the Neighbourhood Plan and Exeter City Council Planning Policies. They are meant to be positive to encourage the types of development that the community wants and needs.
What are projects?
Policies are not the same as projects. Projects will be actively promoted and taken forward by the community and will generally relate to improvements to a particular part of St James.

3.0 Environment
Making St James an attractive, environmentally healthy and sustainable place. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to protect and enhance the natural environment of St James and ensure that natural resources are used prudently.
• Hoopern Valley: will be given special status to protect and enhance its nature conservation, green space and recreational value. The policy will reflect the Exeter City Council (ECC) Core Strategy and Exeter University Conservation Management Plan and encourage initiatives that progress shared objectives.
• Green Spaces: Policies will identify and give special status to protect these areas for their nature conservation and recreational value. It will encourage the enhancement of these areas and encourage limited small scale development where it improves the natural or amenity values of the green space.
• New Green Space: The Neighbourhood Plan will identify appropriate criteria for new green spaces to be created in line with ECC’s open space standards.
• Gardens: Gardens are an important characteristic in some parts of St. James and add to the biodiversity of the ward. This policy would seek to protect gardens and enhance biodiversity.
• Trees: Trees and hedgerows perform a number of important roles in supporting biodiversity, providing attractive shade/shelter and generally improving health and amenity. This policy will recognise the value of existing trees and hedgerows in St. James and set out measures for new planting.

• Railway corridor: This is an important biodiversity resource for St. James. The policy will ensure that this biodiversity asset is recognised.

4.0 Design
Promoting high quality design in St. James. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to ensure a consistent and high quality approach to design is applied to the development of buildings and spaces which, over time, will result in great improvements to the public realm and built environment.
• Excellence in design: The Neighbourhood Plan will support and reflect ECC’s Core Strategy objective to achieve excellence in design. For St. James this will mean reflecting local character and historic interest while also encouraging positive innovation and cutting edge design to create sustainable buildings and spaces. Policy will reflect guidance in ECC’s Householder’s Guide to Extension Design and Residential Design Guide Supplementary Planning Documents.
• Residential frontages: Improving the frontages of properties in certain areas of St. James is a key priority. A major issue that contributes to the deterioration of the general street scene throughout the ward is a lack adequate waste storage facilities for properties. This policy will ensure that for certain types of planning permission developers / landlords and home owners are required to provide adequate waste storage facilities when making improvements or alterations to their properties. Design guidance will be developed to ensure a consistent and high quality approach is applied which, over time, will result in an improvement to the street scene and public realm generally.
• Shops and commercial frontages: Improving the quality of shop frontages including signage would have a positive impact upon the appearance and general character in several key parts of St James. This policy would ensure that for certain types of planning permission developers / shop owners would be required to ensure that their shop fronts and signage are of a high quality. Design guidance will be developed to ensure a consistent and high quality approach is applied which, over time, will result in an improvement to the public realm.

5.0 Community
Promoting a balanced and vibrant community for St James. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to ensure that the community of St James has the services it needs and has housing to meet the needs of all residents at all stages of their lives.
• Community Balance: This policy would encourage development of appropriate housing to improve the social balance of the ward and address the imbalance in the community that has occurred as a result of concentrated development of houses in multiple occupation, in particular, shared student houses in St. James. The policy would support ECC’s Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document and include guidance on purpose built student accommodation.
• Affordable Homes: The Neighbourhood Plan will support current affordable housing policies in the adopted ECC Core Strategy. The Forum will also work with ECC to consider suitable location for new affordable housing within St. James.
• Community Focus: Centre for St. James. Work carried out by the Task Groups in preparation for the Neighbourhood Plan identified a concentration of community services, organisations and businesses in a cluster around Well Street, York Street and Longbrook Street. A policy will be developed that recognises the significance of this area, designating it as the local centre for St. James. Criteria will accompany the policy to support and promote appropriate new development to preserve the quality and character of this area.
• Queens Crescent: has been identified as an opportunity for the creation of a new community space. Located away from the busy city centre and close to several important local community facilities, this area has great potential to become a new urban park or play area and, subject to agreement with landowners, will be identified as a priority project.
• Allotments: These provide an important social and community function. The plan will include measures to preserve existing allotments within St. James adjacent to the railway, along with investigating opportunities for creating new allotments or productive community gardens.
• Services and Organisations: A range of important community services and organisations are located all over St. James. This policy will recognise these assets and identify measures to support and promote them. Facilities such as the Methodist Church and St. Sidwell’s Community Centre can be given special status and placed on a schedule of assets of community value obligating ECC to consult the community on development that affects these assets.

6.0 Economy
Improving the economy of St James. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to support local businesses, create links to and co-operate with larger businesses (such as the John Lewis Partnership), encourage new businesses and social enterprises that benefit the community, and help in moving to a low carbon economy.
• Employment and Enterprise: Policy will support the development of small scale social enterprises and other businesses that meet the needs of the community. It will ensure that such enterprises are well integrated into and complement existing clusters of activity, such as the businesses at Hems Court.
• Retail: Policy will identify and recognise key retail areas and set out criteria to support the positive development of these areas. Appropriate and well located local retail /food and drink development will be supported, with the impact of development that detracts from the character of certain areas, such as the excessive provision of takeaway restaurants, limited.
• Well Street/King William Street: Policy to allow for/encourage new small scale retail premises and services that meet community needs. Connections to St. Sidwell’s Community Centre through King William Street will be considered.
• Longbrook Street: Policy will encourage the development of retail and other commercial uses of an appropriate type and scale on Longbrook Street.
• Sidwell Street: Policies to consider the quality of shop fronts and signage along Sidwell Street as well as potentially limiting the negative impact of takeaway outlets on the area.
• St James market: This policy would give general encouragement and support to the development of a local produce market within St James.

7.0 Development
Promoting new sustainable development opportunities within St. James. The Neighbourhood plan will work to encourage regeneration and appropriately located new development opportunities that help to achieve social, economic and environmental objectives across the ward.
• Football Club/Yeo and Davey: The Football Club is a valued asset within St. James and the city as a whole. The aim of the policy would be to support the aims of the football club and encourage comprehensive well designed mixed use development. This would need to be of an appropriate scale and character and also take account of the need to improve the balance of the community. The policy would encourage a a flexible and ‘joined up plan’ for both the Football Club and Yeo & Davey sites.
• Cricket Club: The Cricket Club is a valued community asset. A balance between ensuring the long-term viability of the club and preserving the open space and character of the site is important. A policy will be developed that supports the retention of the Cricket club whilst enabling it to secure its financial future.
• Howell Road Car Park: This is an important asset for businesses and retailers in St. James, and ensuring adequate parking is provided for these facilities is a key objective. However, wider ECC and Devon County Council strategies to encourage park and ride could result in a development opportunity on part of all of this site. The Neighbourhood Plan will encourage community engagement into the planning process if a development opportunity were to arise.
• Adapting to climate change: This policy will reflect and support ECC core strategy policy to ensure that St. James makes the fullest contribution possible to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy. This will be supported through a combination of measures including;
reducing the use of fossil fuels
promoting the efficient use of natural resources, the re-use and recycling of resources, and the production and consumption of renewable energy
encouraging and facilitating the development of low and zero carbon energy flexibly through a range of technologies
linking the provision of low and zero carbon energy infrastructure in new developments to existing buildings


8.0 Heritage
Recognising and enhancing the built heritage of St James. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to protect and enhance the historic built environment of St James.
• Conservation Areas: Policy will highlight currently allocated Conservation Areas and reinforce the importance of these areas in preserving the character of the Ward. Potential extensions or amendments to the conservation area could be proposed. The policy would seek to encourage development that will enhance the areas that are rich in heritage assets, and limit features that harm that character, through the removal of superfluous estate agents signs and advertisements for instance.
• Heritage features: Specific buildings or monuments can be afforded special status and added to a schedule of community assets, obligating ECC to consult the community on development that affects these assets.

9.0 Transport
Making St James a more accessible and attractive place for pedestrians and cyclists. The Neighbourhood Plan will work to create a movement network that reflects the predominantly residential character of the area and encourage more sustainable means of transport.
• Strategic traffic and signage: Policy to define routes for strategic traffic around St. James and the preferred routes for traffic within the ward. This could include measures to direct HGV traffic away from residential areas through modifying the highways signage strategy for the area. A strategy to de-clutter and reduce the level of street signage within and around St. James generally could be included.
• Residential streets: Residential areas make up the majority of the St. James ward. To preserve and enhance the character and safety of certain streets, such as Well Street and Devonshire Place, the Neighbourhood Plan will contain a policy to discourage ‘rat-running’ and encourage pedestrian priority in residential streets.
• Sustainable transport: policy to identify and prioritise safe routes for walking and cycling. The Neighbourhood plan will consider public transport provision within the ward and look at ways of improving bus operation and options for enhancements to the railway station.
• Parking: Ensuring that local businesses and shops are serviced by adequate short stay parking spaces. Policy will consider options and put forward potential projects to increase the supply of short stay parking spaces available to local businesses, services and shops.
• Accessibility: a general policy to cover the whole of the ward to ensure high quality standard of accessibility for all section of the population in the future. De-cluttering the urban environment will play a role in achieving this objective.

10.0 Projects
Projects are initiatives that will be promoted and taken forward by the community and will generally relate to a particular part of St James which the community would like to improve.
A small number of projects will be selected as initial priorities and highlighted in the Neighbourhood Plan. Other projects will also be listed in the Neighbourhood Plan as future priorities.
Here are the top priority projects from an original list of 31 that were presented and consulted upon on the 17th April. The full list of projects, along with further suggestions received since the 17th April are available to view and comment upon separately.
• Improve Queens Crescent (open space at junction of York Road and Longbrook Street) as a community ‘Green’
• Work with the Council and University to improve management and storage of waste
• Identify key residential streets for ‘home zone’ type treatment to reduce and slow traffic, improve safety and make pedestrian friendly
• Street tree planting – identify streets to focus on and establish a tree planting campaign
• Find sites for affordable sustainable homes for local people
• Improve pedestrian connections from York Road to Sidwell Street – improve pavement, levels and surfacing
• Work with voluntary organisations to improve the environment of St James
• Improve appearance of Well Street as important link between St James and football ground
• Work with individual Resident Associations to improve their communal and local green spaces
• Work with Network Rail to protect and enhance flora and fauna along the railway corridor

11.0 What happens next? See side panel – Top Right

St James Neighbourhood Plan • Exeter St James

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