COMMENT: Passing power to a local level

JPCT 011013 S13391770x Trudi Mitchell, Angela Koch, Frances Haigh, Mary Crosby, Diane Sumpter and Jane Apostolou -photo by Steve Cobb ENGSUS00120130210103617
JPCT 011013 S13391770x Trudi Mitchell, Angela Koch, Frances Haigh, Mary Crosby, Diane Sumpter and Jane Apostolou -photo by Steve Cobb ENGSUS00120130210103617

Many of you will have heard of neighbourhood planning. This is a new right given to local communities by the Localism Act.

Across the country, parishes are asking for their areas to be designated then working with their communities to produce a neighbourhood plan that represents the community’s hopes and dreams for the area.

This week Arundel Town Council is holding its referendum on a neighbourhood plan, the first one in West Sussex! In Horsham District, Southwater, Pulborough, Nuthurst and even tiny Shermanbury (population 542) have had their areas designated.

Reports have appeared in the press about how these areas are progressing with their plans. North Horsham and Broadbridge Heath parishes have yet to apply for designation.

In Horsham Town, (population 26,000), we do not have parishes; instead we have three neighbourhoods, represented by the Neighbourhood Councils of Denne, Forest and Trafalgar. Though these were established in 1974, the Localism Act does not recognise them as they do not have the same constitution as parishes or town councils. Because of this, it is necessary to form a neighbourhood forum to develop a neighbourhood plan.

I have been working with the Neighbourhood Councils for the last year, to help form a Forum, so that Horsham Town too can produce a neighbourhood plan. This has been no small task!

Following advice from Sussex Association of Local Councils, the Neighbourhood Councils resolved to work together and to form Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum.

We applied to the government for support with the process and we were allocated a consultant to help guide us. We have been talking to people and organisations across the town and we had stalls in Swan Walk and Horsham Market.

To become a designated forum, we need to show that we have the support of many groups, individuals and businesses from across Horsham Town.

Last weekend, we held our Inaugural General Meeting where we approved our Constitution and elected our Steering Group for the first year. We also resolved to apply to HDC for designation as a forum and for designation of our area.

As a result of our progress to date we have been awarded more funding from the government. This will enable us to have workshops and meetings with many people across the area so that everyone can contribute to the plan.

If you live or work in Horsham Town and you would like to take part in any way do get in touch. Activities may include anything from being a member on the mailing list, joining in a street walkabout, setting up a residents association for your road, producing a video about your neighbourhood, or working on projects that help improve our town.

To me this is an exciting opportunity to bring democracy back to the grassroots, to build and strengthen our community, to build resilience and to give people a say in what happens in their area. It is ‘nothing about us, without us!’

Do join us in making this happen.

n Frances Haigh is leader of Liberal Democrats on HDC and chair of Horsham Blueprint Neighbourhood Forum (