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Appeal for support as 'choppy waters' threaten Local Plan

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: July 03, 2014

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A GROUP setting out to safeguard the future of Ashbourne has made a fresh call for townsfolk to get involved after an independent inspector picked out flaws in the district council's local plan.

Derbyshire Dales District Council submitted its Local Plan document, which indicates how locals want the shape of the district to develop over the next 14 years, in May, but questions have been raised over its validity during its cross-examination.

Examining inspector Keith Holland has warned of holes in some of the proposed policies and the way the consultation with residents was carried out.

The district council has responded to the concerns in a 15-page reply but Ashbourne's Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, which is forming a more detailed plan for the town alongside the district-wide strategy, says the "choppy waters" that lie ahead for the Local Plan make it even more important for people to get involved.

The steering group's chairman Jeffrey Phillips said: "At the moment it doesn't look like the inspector is very happy about the figures in the plan, and he doesn't appear to be very happy that the district council has adequately consulted with the local population.

"If the inspector doesn't agree with the council, there will be no Local Plan.

"The strategy will not be set at Matlock, but according to national or Whitehall rules. That makes the community-driven Neighbourhood Plan even more important and urgent because that will still influence land use in and around our town.

"We hope that the Local Plan will not be rejected but we are planning for the worst. We are speeding up our public consultation and research process so that policies can be put to the community-wide referendum in the shortest time frame."

The steering group is now planning two public meetings in Ashbourne Town Hall in the coming weeks, on Wednesday, July 16, and on Wednesday, August 6, where it intends to showcase the findings of its surveys and research over the past 18 months.

Among the items on the agenda, the group is promising to explain the issues with the Local Plan document and how it is likely to affect issues such as traffic, housing, tourism and the economy.

Mr Phillips said: "As usual, there is a lot of red tape, brain-busting jargon and legalities, which you might not have the time or the patience to wade through, so the Ashbourne Neighbourhood Plan team wanted to put it into layman's terms to tell you what this means for you."

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