The Topic Group Phase of the Chippenham Neighbourhood Plan officially kicked off at the weekend, with an Induction Event being held at Chippenham Town Hall for all Topic Group Members – volunteers from the local community who will be helping to shape the Plan during this stage. The Neighbourhood Plan, once approved, will provide local planning policies for the Parish and become a statutory component of the Development Plan, to be used by Wiltshire Council when determining planning applications in Chippenham.
The purpose of the Induction Event was to provide some basic training on neighbourhood planning for the 43 Topic Group Members that have joined, as well as an opportunity for them to meet each other for the first time, meet Town Council Officers, and meet Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group Members.
The event was opened by Councillor Nick Murry, Chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. He explained how the public had helped shape the Plan’s Vision for the town and how it would be the Topic Groups role to breathe life into this by developing an effective set of policies, with the support of the Town Council’s Planning Officer and Neighbourhood Plan consultant.
Commenting on the event, Cllr Murry said “It was fantastic to see so many enthusiastic volunteers, with such wide ranging experience, getting stuck into this crucial phase of the Plan. I am looking forward to working with them.”
He continued “I’d also like to add a big thank-you to the Steering Group and its support staff, and to all the town councillors who’ve given up their time to get the Neighbourhood Plan to where it is. It is in my view, a shining example of local democracy in action.”
Councillor Sandie Webb, Leader of the Town Council and also a Member of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, commenting on the event explained: “It was great to see so many Topic Group Members from the local community at the Induction Event and I am proud that the Town Council, who are sponsoring the Plan, are embracing a new and different way of working on the Neighbourhood Plan which has a unique community approach.”
The 7 Topic Groups are: Housing, Community Infrastructure, Green Infrastructure, Town Centre, Transport, Economy and Sustainability & Climate Change, which will be a cross cutting theme throughout the Plan.
This Topic Group phase will last for around 6 months, with each Topic Group meeting on a monthly basis and reporting back to the Steering Group on a regular basis. The remit of each individual Topic Group will be to look at the gaps in current planning policy (to see where the Neighbourhood Plan can add value), gather evidence to justify planning policies, and begin to draft planning policies for the topic.
The Topic Groups will be working with the Chippenham community to help further develop and enable a shared vision for the Town. It is hoped that this will foster community spirit, and empower the local community to take more ownership over what happens in their neighbourhood.
This latest phase follows on from a successful public survey undertaken earlier in the year where 600 residents gave their views on the Town, and subsequently enabled the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group to create a Vision for the Plan.