Pirton neighbourhood plan referendum gets green light

Diane Burleigh, who chaired the Pirton Neighbourhood Plan steering group. Picture: CILEx

Diane Burleigh, who chaired the Pirton Neighbourhood Plan steering group. Picture: CILEx

Leo Wilkinson

Villagers near Hitchin are celebrating after a referendum was approved for their neighbourhood plan – the first in North Hertfordshire.

The people of Pirton parish will vote in March on whether to adopt the Pirton Neighbourhood Development Plan for 2011 to 2031 after it was voted forward by North Herts District Council’s cabinet on Tuesday night.

Diane Burleigh, who chaired the Pirton Neighbourhood Plan steering group, told the Comet she was thrilled to have got to this stage after almost five years of hard work.

“It’s terrific,” she said. “It’s been a very long process because we’re the first here and we’ve had to find our way, as have the parish and district councils. We hope that people coming up behind us will get through a lot faster.

“It’s been great fun, it really has, to get to grips with a whole new area of knowledge in terms of planning and in terms of engaging with the community and getting them keen – which they have been.

“It’s not your plan, it should be the community’s plan – and if you bring most of the community with you, you know you’re going to have decent plan. And I think that’s been recognised.

“It’s been a real joy and it will be a shame when it’s finished.”

The Pirton neighbourhood plan, if approved in the March referendum, will have to be considered by developers alongside the district Local Plan.

Pirton is the first parish in North Herts to get to this stage with a neighbourhood plan. There are 10 more in the works, of which Wymondley and Preston parishes are the furthest along.

Pirton’s plan does not allocate any sites for development but includes 13 criteria-based policies aimed at ensuring development is sustainable and suitable.

Mrs Burleigh said: “It’s not to stop development – it’s to ensure they deliver what we, the community, want.”

District council leader Lynda Needham gave glowing praise to the plan during the meeting at Foundation House in Letchworth, and noted the positive feedback from independent examiner Ann Skippers in her report published in December.

When Mrs Burleigh and others from Pirton applauded the cabinet’s unanimous decision to approve a referendum, Mrs Needham said: “I hope you’re clapping to congratulate yourselves.”

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