The proposed Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Neighbourhood Plan that is subject to a referendum on September 20th could lead to more local control over how money for housing developments is spent in the area, it has been claimed this week.

The Town Council and Burnham Without Parish Council say a levy on future homes, excluding social housing, built in the area could mean greater funds are passed on to the two towns.

Speaking on behalf of Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Town Council, Cllr Phil Harvey, who chaired the group of residents who drew up the Plan, said: “The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is payable on certain developments such as new build houses, conversions, large domestic extensions and, also, extends to hotels, supermarkets and retail warehouses. CIL is typically paid by the applicant requiring planning consent or the landowner.”

“It is charged per square metre of proposed floor space and the rate rises slightly each year. For 2018, its £42.87 for urban residences, £85.74 for rural residences, £107.18 for supermarkets and retail and £10.72 for hotels. There are some exceptions for self-builds, residential extensions and annexes, social housing, charities and exceptional circumstances.”

“At the moment the Town Council and Burnham Without Parish Council receive 15%, excluding surcharges, of the CIL as a ‘Meaningful Proportion’ to spend on items that address the demands that development places on an area such as infrastructure. If there is a Neighbourhood Plan in place this then rises to 25%, excluding surcharges. This could potentially bring thousands of pounds into the area.”

Now Burnham and Highbridge residents are being asked to decide whether the 2014-2032 Plan, which could bring more CIL to the area, should be adopted as part of the planning policy in a referendum on September 20th.

Cllr Harvey added: “It would be a really positive step for our local community to have a say over a larger percentage of the CIL money. The town itself will be able to make more meaningful decisions about local developments and help to shape its own future.”

“If, on September 20, most residents decide to vote for the Plan it will mean together we can create an environment where we can all live, work and play happily. Collectively we can create something that is good for the whole community and can be enjoyed by us all now and by future generations too, for the benefit of our children and grandchildren as well.”

“Having our own Plan would mean Sedgemoor District Council would be obliged to use it when determining future planning applications for our two towns. It will also give us some control over our town centres, a say on what new buildings and homes would look like and it would give us the opportunity to influence the provision of infrastructure.”

“But, if the majority of residents’ vote ‘no’ in the referendum we will not be able to adopt our community Plan and Sedgemoor policies alone will apply, as they currently do now.”

The Plan can be seen in full online here and copies can also be viewed at the Town Council offices, Burnham Library, Highbridge Library, Highbridge Community Hall, BiARS and the Community Centre in Berrow Road.

All those eligible to vote in the referendum will have voting cards and those that have requested postal votes will have received their ballot papers on September 6 or 7.

Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge Town Council and Burnham Without Parish Council are hoping for a high turnout for the vote on September 20.

“Our Plan is very important to the whole community. It’s designed to bring real benefits to local people and includes protection of our significant open spaces from inappropriate development by designating them as ‘local green spaces’. This will give extra protection to Apex Park, Burnham Road playing fields and Southwell Gardens in Highbridge and Marine Cove, Manor Gardens, Crosses Pen and South Esplanade Lawns in Burnham, so they can be enjoyed and used as they should be for generations to come.”

“The Plan will be good for business and employment too by supporting the retention of retail and work opportunities in Highbridge town centre. There’s support as well for ‘green’ policies in the new Isleport Business Park and with any new housing being built. For example, there is encouragement for the provision of points for charging electric cars.”

“In Burnham, it covers, in any redevelopment proposed, the retention of the best aspects of the High Street area and provides details on possibilities to establish a ‘Town Square’ in Princess Street. There are strategies to ensure that, in any redevelopment of Pier Street car park, the whole car park is covered by a comprehensive over-arching scheme.”

“Our Neighbourhood Plan also aims to enhance the environment for local residents with policies to ensure that new housing is built to high design standards with priority given to pedestrians and cyclists, and the creation of networks of streets, paths and accesses, which are pleasant and safe to use. In addition, flood mitigation measures would be put in place to protect new homes and businesses.”

The Neighbourhood Plan is a community initiative and non-political and must always be referred to as thus. It covers three topics: Highbridge, Central Burnham and Housing.

Pictured: Top, Mayor of Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge, Bill Hancock and Alistair Gordon, Chairman of Burnham Without with the Neighbourhood Plan