1.1 Village Design Statement (VDS)
Strensall with Towthorpe Parish Council requested assistance from the community in April 2010 for volunteers to compile a Village Design Statement. Over the ensuing months a number came forward and terms of reference for the working group were agreed in November that year.
Regular meetings were held by the working group which resulted in the successful approval of the Strensall Village Design Statement by City of York Council on March 3rd 2015.
1.2 Neighbourhood Plan (NP)
It was recognised by the Parish Council that although Local Authority Planning Officers would refer to the Village Design Statement, as a Supplementary Planning Document, but the VDS does not carry the same legal weight as a Neighbourhood Plan. The 2011 Localism Act had given communities the opportunity to compile such a plan to ensure the way they wished the community to be developed to be incorporated in the planning process.
The following is an extract from the Plain English Guide to the Localism Act which explains Neighbourhood Plans:
“ Instead of local people being told what to do, the Government thinks that local communities should have genuine opportunities to influence the future of the places where they live. The Act introduces a right for communities to draw up a neighbourhood plan. Neighbourhood planning will allow communities, both residents, employees and business, to come together through a local parish council or neighbourhood forum and say where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go – and what they should look like. These plans can be very simple and concise, or go into considerable detail where people want. Local communities will be able to use neighbourhood planning to grant full or outline planning permission in areas where they want to see new homes and businesses, making it easier and quicker for development to go ahead. Provided a neighbourhood development plan or order is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum. If the plan is approved by a majority of those who vote, then the local authority will bring it into force. Local planning authorities will be required to provide technical advice and support as neighbourhoods draw up their proposals. The Government is funding sources of help and advice for communities. This will help people take advantage of the opportunity to exercise influence over decisions that make a big difference to their lives.”
At the Annual Parish Meeting held in April 2015, a presentation on the need for a NP was given by Rebecca Harrison, Development Officer at the Planning and Environmental Management Department at City of York Council, A request was made to the members of the community present but at that time no-one came forward to assist with the compilation of a NP.
At the July 2015 meeting of Strensall with Towthorpe Parish Council it was agreed to start the process to introduce a NP and four councillors volunteered to be involved,
An inaugural meeting of the steering group was arranged to take place on 25th August 2015.
1.3 Initial Progress by Steering Group
At the inaugural meeting of the steering group, held on 25th August 2015, it was agreed that the area to be designated for the Neighbourhood Plan for Strensall with Towthorpe should be the entire parish. The content of a letter of application to designate the parish of Strensall with Towthorpe was agreed and together with a map of the area was submitted to City of York Council.
The area contained within the parish boundary comprises the Hamlet of Towthorpe and the Village of Strensall. Strensall is a linear settlement which has grown substantially since the 1970’s. It also includes a large area of Ministry of Defence owned land in which the Queen Elizabeth II Barracks and Towthorpe Lines are located. The land was acquired by the Government and is the subject of the 1884 Strensall Common Act. Strensall Common itself is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
It was also agreed to make enquiries to engage a planning consultant to assist and advise on the preparation of the plan.
A web site was also agreed with the domain name www.plan4strensall.co.uk and Geoffrey Harvey-Walker volunteered to arrange.
Funding was also discussed to boost the amounts agreed in the precept.
Future meetings were agreed to be held on a monthly basis on the evening of the 4th Tuesday to follow on from the Parish Council’s Planning Committee meeting.
1.4 Designation of Neighbourhood Plan Area
The area to be covered by the Neighbourhood Plan was submitted to City of York Council in early September but the consultation notices were not displayed /advertised until 9th November 2015 with the consultation period running from 16th November 2015 for 4 weeks.
At the Executive Member session of City of York council held on 6th January 2016 the application to designate the whole of Strensall with Towthorpe Parish as the Neighbourhood Plan Area was approved. Map “A” shows the extent of the plan area.
1.5 Consultation with the Community
At the January 2016 meeting it was agreed that a questionnaire be hand delivered to every residential and business property in the Parish. The content was drafted and was agreed at the February 2016 meeting. A return date for the questionnaires was agreed as 6th April 2016.
The data from these responses was analysed and a summary is available by following https://www.plan4strensall.co.uk/Plan Progress to date/2016 Village-questionnaires/
1.6 City of York Council Local Plan: Preferred Sites Consultation – July 2016
An 8 week consultation period ending on 12th September 2016 was arranged by City of York Council to progress their Local Development Plan. No sites were identified in this document in the Strensall with Towthorpe Parish. HOWEVER, the Parish Council met with local representatives of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Range Officer and all were in agreement that there was capacity (c2 hectares) in the former married quarters area between Border Road and Howard Road for the construction of affordable/social housing. The individual sites are identified on MAP”B”.
1.7 Ministry of Defence Announcement
On 7th November 2016 the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that several sites were to be sold for housing development and the Queen Elizabeth II Barracks, Towthorpe Lines together with Imphal Barracks at Fulford were identified as sites for disposal. This announcement resulted in the City of York Council deciding to delay the submission of the Local Plan by six months to allow negotiations with the MoD and to decide whether to include the sites as available for development at this stage.
Members of the Parish Council / Steering Group have met with the City of York Council’s Local Plan Working Group to work together to resolve this latest delay to the submission of the Local Plan and indeed the Neighbourhood Plan.
Consultations by members of the Steering Group with Officers at City of York Council and Officers at Queen Elizabeth Barracks took place in 2017.
1.8 City of York Council Local Plan Progress
City of York Council consulted on the Local Plan which took account of the MoD Announcement (1.7 above) and included development proposals for Queen Elizabeth Barracks of 578 dwellings plus a further 45 dwellings on open land at Howard Road. When the Publication Draft Regulation 19 Consultation version of the Local Plan was issued in February 2018 the number of dwellings on the Queen Elizabeth Barracks site had been reduced to 500 dwellings to address concerns of the effect of additional residents being able to access the SSSI of Strensall Common.
1.9 Neighbourhood Plan Consultations
A further consultation with residents and statutory / non-statutory consultees took place in June/July 2018. results of this consultation can be found by following www.plan4strensall.co.uk/June 2018 Consultation/June_July Survey Results
After taking account of the responses a Pre-Submission version of the Neighbourhood Plan was arranged to take place in March/April 2019.
The group were advised that further information relevant to the Local Plan but is also likely to affect the Neighbourhood Plan would be in the public domain from 19th February 2019. This report contained details of consultation between City of York Council and Natural England relevant to the residential development of the two sites at Queen Elizabeth Barracks.
1.10 City of York Council and Defence Secretary Announcements
Following the new Habitats Regulations Assessment procedures, announced in May 2018 after City of York Council had submitted the Local Plan, Natural England were concerned that condition of Strensall Common (SAC) (SSSI) could be compromised by the developments of Queen Elizabeth Barracks contained in the submitted Local Plan. A visitor survey was commissioned with Waterman Infrastructure & Environment Ltd. by CoYC. The survey was carried out in late summer 2018 by Footprint Ecology and the results were published in February 2019. Members of the Local Plan Working Group at CoYC were advised of the content of the Waterman report, which concluded that the development of Queen Elizabeth Barracks sites for housing would result in an unacceptable 24% increase in visitors to Strensall Common and that the two sites – ST35 and H59 – be removed from the Plan. This was approved by City of York Council Executive on 7th March 2019.
An announcement was also made by the Defence Secretary in early March 2019 that the timescale for closure of Queen Elizabeth Barracks and Towthorpe Lines would be delayed by 3 years and is now expected to close in 2024.
1.11 Actions taken due to announcements itemised in 1.10
Following instructions from the Planning Inspectorate, City of York Council arranged for further consultation on the 21 amendments to the Local Plan submitted in May 2018. This consultation was arranged to take place between 10th June and 22nd July 2019.
The pre-submission consultation arranged for March/April 2019 was postponed in order to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan was in conformity with the City of York Local Plan as amended.
Arrangements were put in hand by the Steering Group at the March 26th 2019 meeting to amend the Neighbourhood Plan and to commission Strategic Environment Assessment and Heritage Regulation Assessments screening reports to be submitted to statutory consultees for approval.
This action is to ensure that the content of the Neighbourhood Plan is in concert with the the submitted Local Plan (as amended) and whether the Neighbourhood Plan (as amended) is likely to have significant effects on protected European sites. This is in line with Article 6 of the Council Directive 92/43/EEC.
1.12 Regulation 14, Pre-submission Consultation 1st July to 26th August 2019
The Neighbourhood Development Plan document compiled for the pre-submission consultation in March April 2019, was further amended to take account of the removal of the two Queen Elizabeth Barracks sites. This document’s policies are the subject of the pre-submission consultation re-arranged to to take place between 1st July 2019 and 26th August 2019. Invitations to respond to the current development plan policies were distributed to statutory and non-statutory consultees.
An informal consultation was held with statutory consultees in respect of the screening reports compiled by Directions Planning Consultancy to provide amended reports ready for formal consultation.
During this same consultation period, Screening Report documents for Strategic Environment Assessment and Habitat Regulation Assessment were formally sent to the statutory consultees which are Natural England, Historic England City of York Council and The Environment Agency.