Final views are being sought on two policies in a neighbourhood plan developed by the Penrith community before a vote on its adoption.
The draft Penrith Neighbourhood Development Plan, which covers the town and some of the surrounding countryside, contains local planning policies and land allocations and is being prepared by Penrith Town Council.
A recommendation by an independent examiner to remove policies on “Identifying and Protecting Local Green Space” and “Protecting and Enhancing Sport, Leisure and Recreational Facilities” has not been accepted after further public consultation in 2023 established that the 34 sites identified as local green spaces (with the exception of Beacon Hill, which is too large to be classed as a local green space) were "demonstrably special".
As the council’s decision to largely retain these two policies is contrary to the examiner’s recommendation that they be deleted, they now need to be the subject of a final consultation based on the amended wording.
Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area. A neighbourhood plan ultimately forms part of the Development Plan – policies which local authorities use to determine planning applications.
Councillor Virginia Taylor, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said: “The development of the Penrith Neighbourhood Development Plan has involved a tremendous amount of work by Penrith Town Council, supported by Westmorland and Furness Council. The benefits will be immense, ensuring that the community's views and aspirations will be clearly at the heart of the determination of planning applications in the Penrith Town Council area.
"I encourage everyone to take part in this final consultation before the referendum to make sure the Neighbourhood Development plan fully reflects local views, so the plan can help shape Penrith for the better for many years to come."
Accepted changes recommended by the independent examiner included rewording of policy text in respect of the policies on Environmentally Sustainable Design (to “encourage” not “require” applicants to demonstrate how they meet zero or low carbon targets), Energy Use and Reducing Carbon Emissions ( to require on-site renewable energy for commercial development only), Accessibility and Social Inclusion, Conservation Areas in Penrith (to apply requirements for cycling and walking accessibility only to development within or adjacent to the urban area), High Quality New Homes, Housing Types and Mix, and Penrith Town Centre Improvements.
Recommendations also accepted included removing the policies on sustainable development and traffic management due to issues of alignment with national and local policy.
The plan covers requirements in development in areas such as environmentally-sustainable design and energy use and reducing carbon emissions, as well as accessibility and social inclusion by requiring that the needs of all groups and sections of the community are met by ensuring routes are welcoming, overlooked and safe with homes being flexible and adaptable.
It also includes policies on protecting community facilities; measures to enhance the town centre, including building design, planting, walking and cycling routes, public realm and signage; and requirements for shopfront design to maintain the quality, character and distinctiveness within the town centre; as well as design requirements in the area's two conservation areas to ensure the enhancement and acknowledgement of important views; criteria for new housing, including materials, visual impact, social infrastructure, visual and landscape character, access to local facilities and parking standards; and requirements for a range of house types including bungalows to meet local needs identified in housing needs surveys.
Consultation on Policy 8 (Identifying and Protecting Local Green Spaces) and Policy 9 (Protecting and Enhancing Sport, Leisure and Recreation Facilities) of the plan starts today (Monday 8 January) and runs until February 18.
A referendum will then be held to decide whether the plan should be adopted. A simple majority vote of more than 50 per cent would see the plan adopted and included as part of Westmorland Furness Council's Development Plan and taken into account in determining relevant planning applications.