November 2020 - Delay to Windsor Neighbourhood Plan Referendum decision finally over?
Last February the Windsor Neighbourhood Plan was found to be sound by an independent examiner, subject to some changes to be agreed with Royal Borough. Thereafter, it should have had a Decision Notice published by the Borough within 5 weeks. Had all been well, we would have gone to referendum in May 2020. However Covid seriously delayed it. Now the Head of Planning Policy, Adrien Waite has given his commitment for the report to go to Cabinet on 17th December 2020.
Once the Decision Notice is agreed, the Plan will legally have some weight in planning decisions. Thereafter, the Plan could go forward for a Referendum on 6th May 2021. This date is already in the calendar for other local elections.
You can see the draft Plan on the website www.windsorplan.org.uk
The plan has been produced by a dedicated group of local volunteers, designated by RBWM in 2014, who followed the extensive legal process required and is based on 6 rounds of consultation. It is essentially about what should get planning permission in the suburban Windsor area. It is separate and different from the Borough Local Plan, which applies at a Borough wide level.
The plan aims to drive up the standards of development in the town, and at the same time protect what people have said they value and feel is special about Windsor.
It includes policies to protect the WNP areas open spaces, green character, its local heritage, important views, pubs, and the quality of housing amenities.
It includes a Design Guide, which shows the character of the different areas of Windsor and is a tool for developers to determine which features are typical of the town and are valued by the people who live here. It has a detailed Views policy, which shows the important public views across the WNP area and also a policy to improve the Alma Road former Imperial House site.
Checking out Planning Applications in Windsor
There have been some significant applications recently in which we, along with others, have fought for the best outcome, in accordance with what Windsorians have told us they want to see, including:
The saving (again) of Essex Lodge.
With a horrible sense of deja vue, I spoke for the fourth time on behalf of the WNP and Boltons Residents against the application to demolish Essex Lodge (on the right of the photo) at the Planning Panel on 18th November 2021.
There have been 4 attempts by developers in 8 years to get permission to knock down this attractive Victorian house at the junction of Bolton Ave and Osborne Road and to replace it with flats. It has also been refused at three Planning Appeals. It was a close-run thing, but it was again refused with the panel voting 5:3 against the plans.
We argued that removal of this original building will be a loss of local heritage and harm the visual “gateway” aspects of this prominent site, as well as harm the Conservation area The benefit of gaining a few flats (over conversion) is not worth the harm it would cause.
Local councillors agreed with us. This case is something of a test on how important original local heritage buildings are to councillors who make the panel decision.
The attractive black and white timbered building sits just on the outside of the inner Windsor Conservation Area and so lacks the same protection as its “twin” counterpart (Kings House) on the other side of the road. Part of an original cluster of buildings (of which Essex Lodge, The Coach House, and Kings House remain) and built for Queen Victoria’s dressmaker, it is now in the Local List of Non-Designated Heritage Assets developed by The Windsor and Eton Society, with the help of Borough Conservation Officers. Once more common, examples of this type are becoming rare locally.
76% of respondents to the Neighbourhood Plan Vision Survey said that protection of local heritage was of the highest importance to them, so the Plan heritage policy encourages preservation of such buildings.
The former Thames Valley Hospice Hatch Lane, Pine Lodge.
How important is community involvement in major planning decisions?
The Neighbourhood Plan tries to give the local community some influence on what is built in their area. The Plan cannot stop development, but can help to shape and style new/refurbished buildings based on evidence and in accordance with community support.
The Plan can help to provide local evidence to support valid planning objections. The recent re-submission for the former Thames Hospice site is a case in point. After the previous application for 49 units was refused by Borough in August 2021, we were able to discuss with the developers our community hopes for this site. We were able to point to problems with the appearance, density, design and layout, poor access to the on-site open space for inhabitants and difficulties with the drives of houses directly onto a narrow part of Hatch Lane.
The design has been amended and resubmitted by the developer. Our Design Guide enabled us to point to evidence that could improve the design and make the development more likely to enhance the local area rather than detract from it. Many of these have been incorporated into the new design.
All planning decisions are a balance between competing interests and Borough officers and councillors have to make a judgement for the greater good. We believe that the Plan provides evidence to summarise and support local wishes.
Co-Chair Windsor Neighbourhood Plan 30th November 2020
We are delighted that Windsor Neighbourhood Plan was submitted on Thursday 18th April to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for its Regulation 15 Final Consultation stage.
You can see copies of the plan and the associated documents below.
Now the plan goes through a process of RBWM Consultation, examination, and hopefully finally, Referendum.
Watch this space for further news.
After 5 years in the making, on 9 April 2019, the Windsor Neighbourhood Plan forum voted to submit the WNP to RBWM for its Final Consultation, Examination and Referendum. Thank you to everyone for giving us your time, energy and feedback throughout this very important process.
We are delighted to say that at our well attended Forum meeting last night the members unanimously approved the latest draft for Consultation.
The Consultation will run from 19th November until 13th Jan (8 weeks).
Thanks to our members for attending and for the continuing support.