Last Thursday evening I attended a meeting of Rugby Borough Council's Customer and Partnerships Committee in Church Lawford.
The meeting was being held as part of that committee's review of the effectiveness of Parish Plans. A Parish Plan is a document produced by a community (normally through the parish council) that sets out how the people who live in the area want it to develop in the future. The plan will also set out the action that is needed to achieve this.
The Customer and Partnerships Committee is looking into how the borough council responds to Parish Plans, what could be done to encourage the preparation of plans in those parishes currently without them, and how the monitoring and on-going development of plans is carried out. The purpose of this particular meeting was to gather evidence from parish councils on these matters, which it would consider at its next meeting in December.
Of the 39 parish areas in the borough of Rugby, 11 had produced Parish Plans, and one (Shilton!) has one in production.
A number of parish councils were represented at the meeting, almost all of whom had produced a Parish Plan. The area of biggest contention seemed to relate to the extent to which the local planning authority (ie. Rugby Borough Council) would take into account planning policies and objectives contained within Parish Plans that were contrary to national planning guidance when it was considering local planning applications. Somewhat unhelpfully, the Warwickshire Rural Community Council said that Parish Plan policies should be taken account of, and Rugby's planning department said that they wouldn't be! This only confirms my long held view that the primary job of council planning departments is to apply national planning guidance, rather than show any significant local discretion in determining what should, and shouldn't, be approved (but that's a blog for another day!).
Addressing the committee, I made the point that that each community (and its parish council) faced their own particular challenges and had differing capacity to meet those challenges, and this would be reflected in the scope and ambition contained within its own Parish Plan. I hoped that Rugby would recognise this in the flexible way they supported the objectives of each plan, seeing that small scale progress can have as positive an influence on the community as more ambitious projects. I shall let you know what the final report says.
These sorts of meetings prove a good chance to hear about the work that neighbouring parish councils are doing, which in turn provides the motivation and challenge to achieve more with our own parish council.
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