What is Blueprint and why are you undertaking yet another consultation process on planning and development?

The change of government has brought a new approach to producing plans about development and how land is used. The new government says these should be based on local aspirations and objectives known as ‘localism’. It intends to remove what it calls ‘top down targets’ which are set out in Regional Spatial Stratgies, with the introduction of new legislation during 2010- 2011. Our recent consultations on our emerging local development framework have been based on those targets. In anticpation of the new localism guidelines the City Council is giving people the chance to express a truly local view for the first time. It is time consuming and bit repetitive to have to consult again, but we have tried to come up with a new way of looking at the possibilities so it is a genuinely new opportunity to comment and the responses will help us draw up our ‘local development framework’.

What’s a ‘local development framework’ (LDF)?

It’s the document that will set out the principles by which we decide what can be built and where, over the next twenty years. It will also contain policies on sustainability, protecting the environment and managing our infra-structure. It’s a very important document. Winchester District LDF commenced preparation sometime ago see www.winchester.gov.uk/LDF for more details.

Hasn’t the government abolished housing targets ?

In July, the government abolished the regional spatial strategies which set out the targets we all had to follow for things like house building. This decision was challenged in the High Court and it was found that the Secretary of State for Communities had acted outside his powers. So on 10 November 2010 regional spatial strategies were re-established. However, it is the Government’s intention to remove regional spatial strategies through its Localism Bill soon to be published. This gives us the opportunity to look ahead and to decide what growth we need and where. The government hasn’t abolished all of the problems or issues we face so we still need a plan.

Why have you called the process ‘Blueprint’?

It’s easier to manage a process and get some interest in it when it has a bit of personality. We chose ‘Blueprint’ because most people still recognise the concept of a ‘blueprint’ as something you need to make a finished product. We don’t mind if you don’t like it – so long as you get involved anyway.

Why have you come up with these characters?

Just asking people to think about the future of their communities can be a bit dry and difficult, especially for people who don’t normally get involved in these sorts of exercises. It also tends to involve people telling us about themselves rather than considering the issues that the whole community faces – which is where our responsibilities lie. The characters are meant to reflect real life and are designed to provoke discussion about situations that are important and challenging. It’s a way of kick starting people’s thinking, not to limit debate.

Who created Blueprint? - did you pay consultants to produce it?

No, all materials and techniques were developed by Winchester City Council staff.

Why do we have to do this now?

We have to produce our local development framework for consultation next year and there is a lot of work to do to produce a draft for consideration by the Council and then the wider community. Our existing planning policies are becoming out-dated and this could lead to the things happening that we don’t want through appeals. It’s not fair on people with legitimate development aspirations for them not to know what our policies are either. So we need to stick to a fairly demanding timetable in everyone’s interest.

What will you do with all the responses?

This is the biggest challenge of course. In some communities there might be quite a good consensus of opinion about what should happen in the future. In these cases we might be able to take that forward into the local development framework without too much difficulty. But in many places people and interest groups will differ greatly. In the end we have to produce a local development framework with policies which are grounded in evidence and a realistic view of the future. That’s because the local development framework will be looked at by an external inspector to check that it is sound. We can’t just write down all the things people say to us – not least because a lot of those things will contradict each other. The City Council will have to use its judgement to distil from the responses a sensible approach to meeting the needs of the district.

So you’re going to ignore individual views?

We’re not going to ignore any views. But there aren’t many important issues about which thousands of residents of the district all share precisely the same view. And some people’s views, to be honest, simply don’t acknowledge the complexity of what we have to do or the challenges that we face. So the local development framework will need to make a balanced judgement on what is right, to reflect the views received and to address the issues facing the District over the next 20 years, it is not a referendum on particular proposals.

What if I live in the South Downs National Park – how does Blueprint work?

On 31 March 2010 the South Downs became Britain's newest National Park, covering over 1,600 km.sq. from the edge of Winchester to Beachy Head. Visit www.southdowns.gov.uk to see if you’re in the National Park.

From 1 April 2011, the National Park Authority (NPA) will be the sole authority to deliver programmes, work with partners and take decisions as the Local Planning Authority. At its meeting on 15 June 2010 the NPA agreed in relation to LDF work, to work in partnership with Local Authorities and to commence work on its own Core Strategy as soon as possible with a view to adoption by 2014.

In terms of Blueprint those communities in the National Park can participate and indeed National Park officers are keen to work with us to formulate a set of planning policies that are appropriate and retain and maintain sustainable communities.

How does Blueprint fit in with Parish and other forms of Community Plans?

Blueprint provides an opportunity for communities to either start or review an existing plan – it will not replace them. The information gathered via Blueprint will be collated and then translated into a set of planning policies which will be applied across the whole of the Winchester District, but given the local emphasis there may be data that communities will find both interesting and useful in initiating a community based plan.
See www.winchester.gov.uk/CommunityAndLiving/CommunityPlanning/CommunityPlans for more details

Read more general FAQs about the LDF on the Winchester City Council website.

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