The Chesham Neighbourhood Plan has secured money from the government levelling up pot to “take control of planning in Chesham”.

Initially, the Chesham Neighbourhood Plan (CNP) consultation attracted more than 1,500 responses from residents and stakeholders.

Used as a vision for long-term planning, the CNP secured £200,000 funding from the government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). 

The Neighbourhood Plan helps town leaders identify areas of brownfield land for development and regeneration, and plan standards on climate change and the environment to protect Chesham green spaces and green belt land.

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The town council was determined to create “a truly ‘bottom-up’ plan that at every stage truly reflects as closely as possible the views of the community and the input and desires of local people,” councillor Nick Southworth, chair of Chesham Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan Working Group, said.

He commented: “The amount of feedback that we have received is phenomenal, and is testament to just how much people in Chesham care about our town and its future. 

“The initial consultation was a really important step forward to start the conversation in the Town, not just about development but also numerous other issues such as infrastructure and environment.

“We will be analysing the data and comments in detail and will consult further with the Town at various stages as we develop this long-term planning vision for Chesham.”

The CNP will also set goals for architectural design, sustainability, public urban and green spaces and the future of the High Street.

Levelling up funding

To prepare Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDOs) – planning tools allowing the Town Council to control brownfield land development – the Neighbourhood Plan won a grant funding bid worth £200,000 from the Department for Levelling Up.

In short, the NDOs are planning permissions, which dictate that any organisation who develops land within the CNP area must conform to the permission.

The scale of the funding was beyond expectations, and will go towards “detailed, high-end design work across numerous sites” rather than ugly or inappropriate schemes, Councillor Southworth said.

He said: “We have been clear from the start that the Neighbourhood Plan is about taking control of planning in Chesham, and NDO’s will allow us to ensure that new buildings reflect our unique architecture and history.

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“They will grant us control over development right up to the end product, so brownfield land won't just be freed up and then used for ugly or inappropriate schemes, but rather for development in accordance with the NDO.

“When twinned with the rigorous town-wide Design Code which we are also working on, we can take a firm grip on future development.

Chesham Town Council has already engaged the services of a specialist consultancy Create Streets to help with development, he said. 

The levelling up funding is meant to increase the supply of affordable homes in Chesham to help “people in the local community onto the housing ladder,” a DLUHC spokesperson explained.

“Local areas know their communities best and the neighbourhood planning support programme gives communities across the country the chance to influence development and have a real say in the places where they live and work.

Not everyone was on board of the Neighbourhood Plan when the consultation launched.

Some social media commentators on OurChesham Facebook group criticised the Neighbourhood Plan survey as leading.

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