erupts as council axes proposed Burnham Neighbourhood Plan
and Highbridge councillors last night (Monday) voted to scrap
controversial plans to create a Neighbourhood Plan amid claims
that the project would 'waste' up to £100,000 of tax payers'
words were exchanged during a heated debate at Monday's Town Council
meeting where members considered whether to proceed with work
to compile a Neighbourhood Plan.
approved, it would provide residents with powers under the 2011
Localism Act to decide the future shape of the two towns, from
choosing where new homes and shops are built, to having a say
on housing types and what buildings should look like.
Deputy Mayor Cllr Martin Cox hit out at the proposals, saying:
"This is a huge a black hole of project and rate payers could
be expected to pay up to £100,000 for very minimal benefit."
is little spare land in Burnham left to develop over the coming
few years and only a few sites in Highbridge after the Brue Farm
and Clyce boatyard developments, so I just don't see a need for
Bill Hancock agreed: "These proposals are so vague with lots
of 'ifs and buts' and few benefits. No-one knows what the final
cost of creating the Plan would be - it would be a complete waste
of time and money."
Town Council formed a working party last
year to start work on the new Plan after securing £20,000
for the work - which includes £10,000 for a local referendum
to ask residents whether the plan is wanted.
Cllr Helen Groves - who proposed that £25,000 be set aside
over two years to continue the work - said the cost of £100,000
was hugely inaccurate.
added: "The Plan would cost £45-£50,000 at most
and would be a huge step forward, providing residents with the
power to influence the type of developments going ahead in Burnham
would let them determine the quality of homes being built, the
locations, and have a say in shaping our community in a real positive
way for years to come."
Phil Harvey, who leads the Lib Dems on the Town Council, added
that it was "strange that Conservative councillors are not
supportive given that neighbourhood planning is a flagship policy
of David Cameron."
added: "Sadly, the views of many councillors being expressed
here are from the standpoints of middle-aged people who don't
want to 'rock the boat' and are happy to turn their backs on residents.
We should be grasping the opportunity to move this forward and
give residents control of shaping their community."
Cllr Neville Jones questioned the value of the scheme and say
it should be delayed: "Hold it back until the next local
elections in 2015 and let Cllr Groves and her party put it to
the electorate, explaining know how much it will cost and invite
opinions at the polls."
Mayor Ken Smout stressed that the matter is not a party political
one and also said the council is not turning its back on residents.
"We are not turning out backs on residents at all or we would
not debating it here - we do care and are considering the rate
payers' money," he said.
A vote of councillors took place and Cllr Martin Cox's proposal
to axe the Plan, but investigate other options such as Supplementary
Planning Documents, was carried by seven votes to four.
after the meeting, Cllr Groves told Burnham-On-Sea.com she was
"very disappointed" at the decision. "Now the Town
Council has decided not to proceed, the £20,000 Pathfinder
funding we secured for the Plan will stay in the hands of Sedgemoor
District Council and may be lost to the people of Burnham and
Highbridge. If a group of at least 20 residents wants to take
this forward, they can but the cost of the work could now fall
on the tax payer. All we would have spent was £1 a year
per resident over the two years to give our community a say for
the next 20 years."
Neighbourhood Plan is part of the 2011 Localism Act to enable
local people to make their views known about the future of their
areas and to have these opinions taken into account when future
planning decisions are taken by Parish and Borough Councils.