Northwich Neighbourhood Plan
Introduction: Neighbourhood Plans
In September 2012, Northwich Town Council agreed that it should work with the community to create a Neighbourhood Plan. Unlike other Neighbourhood Plans that are consultant-led or Council-led, the Town Council agreed that the Plan should be community-led.
An executive group was set up comprising four Town Councillors, two Local Business Leaders and the Town Clerk. This group has called on support from consultant firm, Urban Roots who have extensive experience in Local Authority planning. We were asked by Urban Roots Planning to help out with some aspects of the work.
Following advice from Cheshire West and Chester Council, the executive group agreed that the Plan should be a Policy-only Plan. The principal reason for this was that although there is substantial brownfield land within Northwich, much of it suffers contamination following decades of industrial use. Proving that a site of this kind is likely to be developed over the plan period would therefore be costly and beyond the resources available to the Town Council.
A number of Topic Area Groups (TAGs) were set up, each with a leader/facilitator chosen from the local community, based on their knowledge and experience in that area. These TAGs were:
- Retail and Commercial
- Employment and Education
- Environment – Natural and Built
- Transport and Infrastructure
- Health and Wellbeing
- Recreation, Tourism and Waterways
Through a series of public meetings, over 60 people volunteered to work on the Plan, joining one or more of the TAGs and identifying strengths, issues and opportunities in their areas through public meetings, monthly street stalls in the town, and a number of surveys. These helped to inform the vision and objectives of the Plan.
The Plan sought to answer seven key questions:
- How should the town centre be further developed and improved, ensuring safe and easy access for both residents and visitors?
- How can walking and cycling routes and facilities around the town be improved, for both recreation and commuting?
- Should we retain a market, and if so, how can it be made to flourish?
- How can we make best use of Northwich’s rivers and waterways for retail, tourism and leisure?
- Should we maintain the character of the town by ensuring that new development is in keeping with Northwich’s historic timber-framed and black and white buildings?
- How should we protect and make the best of our green open spaces, woodlands, parks and sports facilities?
- How can we make Northwich more environmentally sustainable?
Although the UK Government’s intention is for local people to decide what goes on in their towns, the Localism Act sets out some important principles to which Plans must abide. One of these is that all Neighbourhood Plans must be in line with higher level planning policy. That is, Neighbourhood Plans must be in line with the National Planning Policy Framework(otherwise known as the NPPF) and local policy, in this case the Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan Part I and Part II.
The Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan requires that the town of Northwich and adjoining settlements of Anderton, Barnton, Davenham, Hartford, Lostock Gralam, Lower Marston, Lower Wincham, Rudheath and Weaverham provide by 2030:
- a minimum of 4,300 new homes
- a minimum of 30 hectares of additional land for business and industrial development
The Localism Act allows the Plan to provide more than this number of houses and amount of employment land, but it does not allow the Plan to provide for less.
Our work focused on the built environment of the town, its historical development, the green and blue networks of the town and its centrality patterns of town centre and local centres