Farndon Neighbourhood Development Plan Approved
On Thursday 22 February 2018 the village of Farndon in Cheshire held the Referendum to decide on the adoption, or otherwise, of the Farndon Neighbourhood Development Plan.
The Plan and the Referendum were the culmination of five years work by a small group of residents appointed by Farndon Parish Council.
Farndon is a small village situated at the lowest bridging point of the Dee south of Chester and dates back to pre-Roman times. It was essentially the settlement at the ford where the east/west Roman road crossed the Dee. The population was always small rising from the 37 residents recorded in the Doomsday Book to the 1,665 shown in the 2011 Census.
Neighbourhood planning was enabled by the National Planning Framework of 2012 and was in its infancy when Farndon began the consultation process. As many residents as possible – from pupils at the primary school to pensioners groups and everything and everyone in between – were contacted. Questionnaires were distributed to each household and all business premises in the Parish, informal meetings arranged, information leaflets distributed, coffee mornings and public meetings held and the results recorded and analysed. When gathered together, the information formed the basis of what became the Farndon Plan.
There were as always, delays in the process – at one point, when approval was given by the Council during 2012 and 2013 for four large estates to be built on agricultural land on the edge of Farndon – effectively increasing the population by 41% within four years – the village became very discouraged and enthusiasm was at a low ebb. However, after consulting residents, work on the Plan continued. Residents were very clear that they wanted the future protection afforded by the Plan – even if nothing could be done about the past.
A thorough analysis of all responses to the questionnaire and individual comments resulted in the development of six distinct topics: –
- The Local Economy
- Homes to Meet the Needs of the Village
- Protecting the Built Environment
- Facilities for Local People
- Transport and Communication
- Landscape and Environment.
The Plan went through about ten drafts before all interested parties ranging from Cheshire West and Chester Council to the Environment Agency were content that that it complied with the national and local legislative requirements.
There were other considerations too, which are important to Farndon: –
- there two sites of Special Scientific Interest – the Dee Cliffs and the River itself – not that any of that area can be developed, as the Dee valley at this location is a flood plain – but never the less – there were hoops to be jumped through.
- The village is largely a designated Conservation Area, which is extremely important to residents as they wish to respect the existing, mainly Cheshire style of buildings and avoid modern, anodyne, mass, estate-type development.
- Farndon Bridge is a Grade 1 listed building and a scheduled ancient monument and St Chad’s church is listed as Grade II along with 15 other buildings around the village.
- And Farndon itself is surrounded by Grade 1 and Grade 2 agricultural land but has no buffer of Green Belt to protect the village and its setting.
An unforeseen complication came in the middle of the process when in April 2015 the Parish boundary was altered to bring two small hamlets and some outlying farms into the Parish. Consequently, the consultation was broadened and in part re-run to include comments by new parishioners.
The team were surprised by just how long the whole ‘official’ process took. The final draft was completed in July 2015 and submitted to Cheshire West and Chester. Subsequent procedures involved further consultations by the Council with interested parties of which there turned out to be many, further consultation with residents, reference to the independent Examiner, further consultation with the Parish Council, final agreement between the Examiner and the Council. Each stage involved a degree of re-drafting of the Plan and further consultation with residents.
The final stage was the village Referendum – held to Electoral Commission regulations – with polling cards issued by Cheshire Council to all eligible residents.
To ensure that all residents were able to read the final document the Parish Council distributed hard copies of the Plan around the village to locations including the Post Office, the two pubs, the coffee shop, the Surgery, the beauty salon, the DIY shop, hairdressers, the Memorial Hall and the Community Club. Posters advertising the Referendum were placed in almost every shop window and on most lampposts, drop-in coffee mornings were arranged and information circulated courtesy of the Focus newsletter. The Plan was also posted on the Parish Council and the Cheshire West web-sites.
The usual Polling Station at the village Memorial Hall opened at 7.00 and the count was undertaken immediately after the poll closed at 22.00 and the result, posted on the Hall noticeboard was: –
TOTAL VOTES CAST = 382
IN SUPPORT = 361
NOT IN SUPPORT = 20
DOUBTFUL = 1
IN FAVOUR = 95%
With a turnout of 24.6% – this was one of the highest in Cheshire for a village plan.
The result conveys weight in law to the Farndon Plan and as such, it must be taken into account when the Parish Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Secretary of State consider future planning applications.
We did the best we could and are delighted that residents supported the Plan.