By Harold Goodwin & John Irwin, Faversham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group
The response to the Reg 14 consultation, which concluded in February, was exceptional. The Town Council is still processing and considering the Reg 14 responses. Many of the comments are supportive of the plan, including suggestions about how it could be strengthened.
The natural environment, habitats and the protection of agricultural land have been strong themes in the consultation responses so far. The community have really emphasised infrastructure projects that are important to the town, including the new bridge and sluice gates on Faversham Creek.
The Town Council will amend the Neighbourhood Plan once all the representations have been fully considered and prepare the submission documents to send to Swale. Once this is complete the amended Plan and submission documents will be available to view on the Town Council website.
Swale Borough Council will then organise a Reg 16 consultation*, which will run for six weeks
and publish the responses. An independent examiner will then review the Plan and consultation responses and prepare a report, including, if appropriate, recommendations for modification. It will be for the Town Council and Swale Borough Council to agree on any modifications before moving to a referendum.
Once the emerging Neighbourhood Plan has been through Reg 16 consultation, it does begin to carry some legal weight in the decisions by planners about new developments and significant weight following examination. The sooner we can get the Plan to a referendum, the better.
The Neighbourhood Plan gives certainty to the growth strategy and future of Faversham. Future speculative developments will be tested against the policies in the Neighbourhood Plan and Local Plan as part of the Statutory Development Plan. If we collectively reject the Neighbourhood Plan at a referendum, Faversham will be vulnerable to further speculative large-scale development within the parish boundary.
NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN TIMELINE
REG 14 refers to the public consultation that took place between January and February 2023
REG 16 refers to the public consultation which will take place after plan is amended as a result of feedback from the Ref !4. This is planned for May to June 2023.
After the review process it is hoped that this will lead to a public referendum on the plan, probably in the Autumn this year.