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Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan formally approved in cabinet meeting




Breckland Council will now officially determine planning applications for Swaffham following a cabinet meeting yesterday.

The Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan was voted in with 81.5 per cent supporting the move in a referendum earlier this month.

This amounted to 1,572 votes with 334 (18.5 per cent) against it.

A cabinet meeting for the new district councillors took place on Tuesday morning where the Plan received statutory status.

Swaffham mayor Jill Skinner said: "It was some very committed people from the public sector that achieved the Neighbourhood Plan.

"Ultimately, this has fortunately had an effect to empower the people and question the system which has been in place for a very long time.

"To my mind this can only be a positive, healthy outlook for a growing town, plenty of transparency and questioning is the way forward.

"We are looking forward to us using the plan over the next 20-years."

It will now sit alongside the Breckland Local Plan and is a means of "ensuring development takes place in an appropriate way for the area."

And it concerns the use and development of land from 2019 to 2039.

Among the working group for the Plan were councillor Les Scott (Independent of National Politics) and newly-elected councillors Judy Anscombe (Independent) and Ian Pilcher (Residents4Residents).

Mr Pilcher said: "It was a privilege and pleasure to be involved with the development of the Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan during many months of deliberation before fruition, especially in the regard that essential health and wellbeing, with sport and leisure amenities, should be available to all residents, now and in the future."

Swaffham councillor Ian Sherwood, executive member for customer engagement at Breckland, said: "We have now approved the Neighbourhood Plan for Swaffham. I know how much hard work went into that by a lot of local people so I was delighted that we could put that through."

The Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan concerns the use and development of land over a 20-year period
The Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan concerns the use and development of land over a 20-year period

During a full council meeting earlier this month, Mr Houghton said the Neighbourhood Plan was one of his highlights from his year as mayor.

The draft introduction for the Plan said: "It differs from other town action plans in the past, as it is solely about the use and development of land.

"It provides clarity on what will be expected from development proposals, gives prospective investors confidence in how the area will change in the future, and ensures the impact of development is anticipated and planned for."

A six-week consultation period allowed members of the public and local businesses to comment on a draft document.

A second version of the plan was then submitted to Breckland Council to examine in November.

Sue Gattuso, manager of Swaffham Heritage Museum who was involved with the Plan, said it is not a time to be "complacent" despite the Plan being approved by Breckland following the referendum.

She cited over 300 people who did not agree with the Plan and who "were adamant enough to vote against it."

Mrs Gattuso added: "I am a firm believer that decisions about the town should be made by the people who live and work here rather than bureaucrats or party politicians.

"The bringing together of any community is vital to its success and the group worked hard to consult with as many groups and individuals as possible. This was our one opportunity to have a say. If we did not take advantage our moment of influence would be lost.

"Because of the Plan many of us have found that our say does matter; that we do have opinions, concerns and ideas of merit; that we are not battling in isolation. We have made new friends, learned a lot about laws, regulations, planning, attitudes and background.

"The Plan is not a document which will now gather dust on the top shelf of a bookshelf. It will be the cornerstone of decisions made by town and district for at least my lifetime. From it have emerged several groups to take on strategies and political stances to fashion the town as Swaffham people want it to become.

"Over 300 people did not agree with the Plan and were adamant enough to vote against it. It would be extremely valuable to know what their objections were.

"I do hope that they come forward so that their concerns can be debated and resolved to mutual satisfaction and benefit. As we move forward we are still in continual need of everyone's input."

Another resident who contributed to the Plan was James Dean, a chartered civil engineer involved with various groups in Swaffham over 20-years.

He said: "Swaffham is already an attractive town but there is still much which could be done to encourage more visitors and businesses.

"The Neighbourhood Plan sets the scene for this but it is vital that the Plan is not simply put on a shelf, but is used as a working document for the next 20 years.

"It is essentially a planning guide as to how land in the future such as housing, leisure, education and roads will be used.

"Incidentally all the public consultations which were carried out during the process revealed many additional concerns which are not directly a Neighbourhood Plan matter.

"These have been separately listed for action as community projects."

Mr Dean added that his involvement with the Plan was primarily to draw attention to the "deficiencies" in the road network.

He said he is passionate about pursuing a relief road for the town as Swaffham is bisected by the "very busy" A1065.

Trying to reduce the number of heavy lorries passing through the town centre is another of his concerns.

The final version of the Neighbourhood Plan document can be viewed on the Swaffham town council's website.



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