Shaping where we live – Stapleford and Great Shelford neighbourhood plan update, Feb 2022

A steering group of Stapleford and Great Shelford parish councillors and residents has been making good progress on the early stages of the villages’ combined neighbourhood plan. This is our unique opportunity to create a shared vision of what is important to us and how we want to develop and use our land over the next 15-20 years. Once completed, the plan will provide a set of legal policies – tailored specifically to our area – and sit alongside the Greater Cambridge local plan and the National Planning Policy Framework when assessing planning applications in our area.

Preparing for initial community engagement

We are preparing for initial consultation with residents in Spring 2022. Consciously or subconsciously, we have all weighed up what is important to us about the place we live. Without asking too many detailed questions too early in the process, this is what the steering group needs to begin to pin down so we can then think about what needs to be done to make Stapleford and Great Shelford better places to live and work.

We will start by asking basic questions about planning-related matters across seven main categories, such as:

Answers to these questions will shape more detailed surveys, focus groups and other meetings with residents, businesses, workers, service providers and landowners. It is our aim that everyone will have opportunities to participate, whether face-to-face, by phone, online or via social media. It does not matter whether you wish to comment on one, a selection or all of these categories; your views are invaluable.

Turning engagement into evidence…and evidence into policies

The outcomes of community engagement will be combined with other information (such as housing needs analysis, local character assessment and local plan data) to create a large evidence base. From this, the steering group will distil a vision for what Stapleford and Great Shelford aspire to look like at the end of the neighbourhood plan period, roughly 20 years from now. A set of more specific objectives will describe what needs to be done to deliver this vision (e.g. ‘promote a range of housing sizes and types which are integrated into the community’; ‘protect, enhance and expand our green spaces and access to the surrounding countryside, linking them for the benefit of wildlife and non-motorised users’). The vision and objectives will be the subjects of further community input.

Following this, a set of planning policies will be created to turn the objectives into action. These are the most important outcomes of any neighbourhood plan because they form part of the statutory development plan against which planning applications are assessed.

In the final stages, the draft neighbourhood plan will be put out for consultation to the people who live, work or run businesses in Stapleford and Great Shelford, plus various bodies whose interests may be affected by the plan, such as the Environment Agency and Natural England. A revised plan is then submitted for independent examination. The examiner will consider whether the proposed neighbourhood plan meets the basic conditions and other legal requirements set out by law. If found satisfactory, the neighbourhood plan will return to Stapleford and Great Shelford for a referendum – a yes/no poll in which you will be asked ‘Do you want South Cambridgeshire District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Stapleford and Great Shelford to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?’ If more than 50% of those voting say ‘yes’, then our plan will come into force.

Final thoughts

Producing a neighbourhood plan is very definitely a lengthy and intricate process with many different parts! But, by the end of it we – the people who know and love Stapleford and Great Shelford most of all – will have written new planning laws and achieved greater control over development in our area. And that really is a vision worth aspiring to.

If you’d like to know more, look out for regular updates via Stapleford Messenger, Great Shelford Village News, local Facebook pages and e-newsletters, Parish Council meeting minutes and school Parentmail. Coming very soon is our new neighbourhood plan website, with direct links from both Parish Councils’ homepages.

Cllr Jenny Flynn, Chair of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group