Statement by Hungerford Town Council concerning West Berkshire’s HELAA (4 Feb 2020)

Statement by Hungerford Town Council on 4 Feb 2020 following the publication of the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) by West Berks Council on 3 Feb 2020.

West Berkshire Council’s Announcement

WBC has published the results of its request to landowners to identify potential land for development in the District. This is part of WBC’s  process for updating the Local Plan. The HELAA publication contains a detailed technical analysis of many sites across the whole WBC area and includes a number within the parish boundary of Hungerford

WBC will be running a briefing for Parish and Town Councils and Neighbourhood Plan groups on 13 February in Hungerford regarding its 2036 Local Plan Review timetable and the HELAA. HTC and Hungerford 2036 representatives will be attending.

The WBC Website page about the HELAA states:

“The HELAA is a technical assessment, not a policy-making document. It will not make recommendations on which sites should be developed but will make a preliminary assessment of their suitability and potential. The information we gather from this process will help inform the West Berkshire Local Plan Review to 2036 which will allocate sites for housing and economic development to cover the period up to 2036.

It is important to note that whilst the HELAA will identify potential sites, it will not allocate them for development or add weight to the site for the purpose of decision making on a planning application.  The allocation of future sites for development will only take place through statutory plan processes (eg Local Plan, Neighbourhood Development Plans)which undergo public consultation and independent examination.”

Hungerford Town Council’s Position

  1. The HELAA process and what follows from it is one of the main reasons the town resolved to undertake the production of a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for Hungerford to ensure future development best suits the needs of the town.
  2. The Hungerford 2036 NDP Project Team has been working to understand the town’s needs over the last 18 months through a survey and consultations. As a result they have already produced a set of assessment criteria (http://www.hungerford2036.info//NPLibrary/Site%20Assessment%20Criteria%20Published.pdf) with which to analyse further the sites put forward to West Berkshire. Under the NDP process West Berkshire, is looking to Hungerford to conduct this analysis and the team is ready to do this.
  3. The Hungerford 2036 Project Team will be engaging specialist independent support for the Site Assessment process which is expected to commence in March. Their outline plan for this was included as Appendix 7 in the Full Council’s December 2019 minutes.
  4. There will be extensive opportunities for residents and others to provide their feedback and contribute local knowledge into the Hungerford NDP considerations. The Hungerford 2036 Project Team welcomes local insights and information from residents and offers of relevant assistance to help with this work.
  5. In due course, West Berks Council is required to set a target for housing to be enabled by the Hungerford Neighbourhood Plan and at that point the HELAA site assessment work will guide how this can be delivered most acceptably and effectively for the town.
  6. Once all the elements of the Neighbourhood Development Plan are complete, the residents of Hungerford will be asked in a local referendum whether they support it. If they do, then it and any allocations of land for development that it contains will become a statutory part of the West Berkshire Local Plan.
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