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Column 29th January 2020

Why should the District Council take powers away from the Town?

At the Wantage Town Council Planning meeting last week, a District Councillor stated that the Town Councillors should not be wasting time reviewing individual planning applications for the town, but that these should be decided purely by the officers at the Vale.

“We will change the system at the district soon so that you [the Town Councillors] won’t have to bother with them” she said.

My understanding is that we elect the Town Councillors to represent us and one of the few things they can do on our behalf is to review planning applications which may affect us.

We don’t believe that these applications should simply be decided by officers without any regard for the local community.

The Neighbourhood Plan was also on the agenda. The only changes since the plan was presented in January 2016 seem to be deletions of policies relating to parking and a reduction in green open spaces

At recent Town Council meetings I asked:
“The minutes of the previous climate emergency meeting state “Although too late for the current iteration of the Neighbourhood Plan, there was the possibility of incorporating a requirement for sustainable house building when due for revision.”

“Why is it too late for the current iteration of the Neighbourhood Plan? The Plan has not been published in any form since January 2016, so why is it suddenly urgent? “Surely it is more important to ensure it is correct than to publish a Plan which doesn’t appear to have any real policies in it?”

Apparently it is now urgent that the Plan is progressed for two reasons: firstly, all the work done by the forty volunteers in 2015 will be out of date shortly so the Plan has to be submitted to a vote quickly; secondly, the Town Council will receive more of the Infrastructure Levy from developers once the plan has been approved.

Without a neighbourhood plan the Town Council receives 15% of the Levy, with one it receives 25%. The remaining funds are used by the District Council.

The Town Council received £5,132 in 2018/19 and £12,064 in 2019/20, so with a neighbourhood plan they would have received an additional £11,464. This money has come from the Naldertown development.

Infrastructure Levy funds can only be spent on infrastructure or other demands that the new development places on the town, so what will it be spent on?

Perhaps on improvements to the Camel junction so that Naldertown residents can cross the A417 safely?


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