Government Changes to Neighbourhood Planning due to COVID-19 (and associated delays)

Updated: Jul 16


We hope you're all managing to look after yourselves in these challenging times and wish all the best for local residents and businesses. Thankfully Shoreham Beach is blessed with a strong community spirit, a good deal of common sense and relatively easy access to wonderful outdoor exercise space. Now that local businesses are finally able to re-open, let's hope the economy can recover quickly and we can build back better.


The council's planning department met with our chairman and sent a recommendation to the Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) to re-designate the forum, in which, the director of the economy stated::

There are opportunities for the neighbourhood plan to contribute to a range of priorities linked to Tackling Climate Change and supporting our natural environment; and thriving people and communities, as set out in Platforms for Our Places: Going Further

There's also a lot of talk on both sides of the political spectrum about a "Green New Deal" or a "New Deal for Britain", which may result in schemes and proposals requiring community input and stewardship, such as more electric car infrastructure, better beach parking for visitors, cycling and walking initiatives, safe electric scooter routes, community energy, etc.

The draft Neighbourhood Plan address es all these issues. Do you agree that the Plan is still a useful framework to ensure developments and schemes appropriately benefit the local community?

Log in to comment publicly, or send us your thoughts here.


Challenges

Unfortunately, political and economic uncertainty over the last four years - including Covid-19 - has severely hampered the progress of Neighbourhood Plans across the country, and Shoreham Beach is certainly no exception! The forum re-designation process unavoidably coincided with the height of lockdown, when residents were focused on home-schooling, shielding and trying to save their livelihoods.


Criticisms

In terms of community engagement, there was nowhere open to hold workshops, display paper copies of the draft plan, distribute information leaflets or access paper forms. However, the consultation process could not be delayed and it went ahead - extended by three weeks.


Despite the council's best efforts, they only received a handful of responses, including some negative comments with regards to the forum's procedures and compliance with the constitution. Unfortunately, we are now stuck between a rock and hard place, because we were forced to cancel last year's AGM where the constitution could have been suitably adapted... and we cannot have another AGM until the forum is re-designated.


The council's planning department met with our chairman and sent a recommendation to the Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) to re-designate the forum, in which, the director of the economy stated:

Since initial designation in 2014 a great deal of work has been undertaken by the Shoreham Beach Neighbourhood Forum to develop a neighbourhood plan. A number of concerns have been raised ...which should be addressed separately.
It appears that the Forum has met the legal requirements for designation of the Forum.
...Officers will be recommending to the Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) that the Shoreham Beach Neighbourhood Forum is designated.

See the full report | Read representations received However, the Joint Strategic Committee could not reach a decision (see restrictions below)


Responding to feedback from residents

During lockdown, the website was/is more important than ever. Some members have found it difficult to view the plan as a Google Doc* on their phones and tablets, so we have now made it easier to access the draft Plan (currently version 4.2) and will break it up into more manageable chunks (i.e. by separating out the Aspirations and Design Code sections).


* Please note that SBNF uses the government-recommended suite of online collaboration tools, and the system was set up to be compatible with ADC. The Plan is an A4 document which is best viewed on a device with a screen larger than a mobile phone. However, if you cannot access a computer or printer, please consider rotating your device to the wide 'landscape" mode when viewing the document.


Comments

In order to simplify the page, we've also removed the Facebook comments feature. This was intended to prompt discussion and awareness via the popular social network, but the feature slowed down page loading speed, so it has been replaced with a private comment form.


Members who are directly involved in formulating the plan can still make use of all the reviewing, commenting and discussion features directly available in the document if they are signed in with their Google account.


In due course, the draft Plan will transition from the current informal discussion format, to a more polished version.


One person said: "there are other forums which could take up the ideas".

If any of these forums would like to work with us, please get in touch.


Restrictions

The council's Joint Strategic Committee discussed the re-designation of the Forum on 7th July 2020, but the decision has been deferred - possibly till September. The JSC made some incorrect assumptions which we aim to rectify ASAP. We were approached for comment and issued a press release which was published in this article in the Herald.


2020.07.12 Redesignation of SBNF Press R
Download 12 REDESIGNATION OF SBNF PRESS R • 311KB


As a response to the pandemic, the government has made the following relevant changes to the neighbourhood planning process, which will unfortunately cause even more delays:

  • Referendums: ...postponed until 6 May 2021.

  • Examinations: ...The general rule remains that examinations should be conducted by written representations. If an examiner considers that oral representations are necessary, these should not take place in person. Wherever possible, oral representations may still take place using video conferencing or other suitable technologies.

  • Public consultation: ...It is not mandatory that engagement is undertaken using face-to-face methods. However, to demonstrate that all groups in the community have been sufficiently engaged, such as with those without internet access, more targeted methods may be needed [but large group gatherings are still not permitted].

  • See full guidance on gov.uk.


What happens now?


We believe the Neighbourhood Planning process has been extremely useful and we've had a very positive and fruitful relationship with the ADC planning department. We now know what is, and isn't possible in terms of compliance with the Local Plan and community aspirations.


If the re-designation is granted (possibly September 2019), we'd like to have the opportunity to re-engage with the community, have some focused workshops and involve more members to finish the Plan - hence the repeated requests for help and the application for re-designation in order to get the necessary time and funding needed to resume inclusive community engagement as lockdown eases.


What do you think? Can you help? What are the alternatives? Click here to send us an email with the main topic "community engagement".


Information and resources to develop a Neighbourhood Plan for Shoreham Beach.

Shoreham Beach Neighbourhood Forum (SBNF) is a community-led group of residents, business, community groups and stakeholders.