Middlewich residents have voted to reject the Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan.
The referendum took place on 14 March 2019. A total of 1,085 residents voted to reject the plan, while 1,063 voted in favour. This makes Middlewich one of only three neighbourhood plans in the country that have been developed and then not been passed at referendum.
Neighbourhood plans are used by the local authority alongside the borough’s Local Plan to inform planning decisions. They are developed by parish and town councils and contain a number of policies specifically designed to shape local development and safeguard the long-term development of each locality.
In Cheshire East to date, 22 neighbourhood plans have been ‘made’, including Knutsford, which passed its referendum on 14 March.
If a neighbourhood plan is not accepted via referendum it will not form part of the council’s development plan and, therefore, it can have no legal status in future decision making in the area it applies to.
This referendum decision also has an impact on the level of funding that can be secured locally from the Community Infrastructure Levy. Communities with a made neighbourhood plan are eligible for 25 per cent of this levy (uncapped). Communities without can receive 10 per cent capped at £100 per dwelling.
The Middlewich Neighbourhood Plan project began in 2014, with Middlewich Town Council forming a steering group to manage the process.
Cheshire East Council provided consultancy support to the group in the early phases of the plan-making process and has provided appropriate support and advice throughout.
A draft plan was put forward for initial public consultation over a six-week period, revisions were made and then the plan was submitted to Cheshire East Council on 19 October 2018. The revised document was then consulted on for a further six-week period, ahead of submission to independent examination.
Following successful completion of the independent examination process, Cheshire East Council proceeded to arrange a referendum on the plan, held on 14 March.
Frank Jordan, Cheshire East Council’s executive director for place, said: “Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to shape development in their communities.
“The council continues to be an enthusiastic supporter of plan making in communities across the borough and has resources to advise and support the development of plans by town and parish councils.
“Should Middlewich Town Council wish to pursue the neighbourhood plan project further, resource and advice remain available from the planning authority.”