THE community consultation has only just begun. It is an intense programme that community supporters on the Neighbourhood Plan Steering group have taken on.
There is the pressure created by seeking to assert emerging community priorities and concerns against the backcloth of the various development proposals while remaining focussed on the primary purpose of the plan. This is to enhance and complement the district council's Local Plan. The Local Plan is the strategic plan for the entire Dales district through to 2028. So the value of the Neighbourhood Plan is to tailor the strategic plan to the specific needs of our own community in general but most critically to the needs of young people... in education, starting careers, starting families.
Ashbourne, its character, environment and social and economic wellbeing, is for the community to protect and strive to enhance in a fast-changing world. Battles will be lost. There will be a sense of frustration at decisions which seem to disregard the needs of the community. A sense of "why bother?" But if the community does not bother, who will? If I am not for me, who will be?'
The Neighbourhood Plan is at an important stage. We have a sense of what proactive members of the community want. We are now capturing those in possible policy statements and distributing those in leaflets around the town. We will be running articles on different aspects and, in a few weeks, we will have a public meeting to give us the confidence that we have captured the community's concerns and priorities. We are developing our knowledge and evidence so that we can develop those concerns and priorities into well thought through policies and then into a draft of the Neighbourhood Plan.
We will inform and consult the community. We need the community to inform us with its views on emerging policies. We will hold meetings and drop-in events and we urge the community to give this process its full support.
Before the Neighbourhood Plan can become part of the planning procedures and sit alongside the strategic Local Plan, it will be examined by a Government inspector and then have to be approved by the community in a referendum. Community engagement will be a critical criteria.
The success of this process stands or falls by the degree of community engagement. As I said, if we are not for Ashbourne, who will be?