Residents of Radstock, Writhlington, Clandown and Haydon are being asked to get involved in creating Radstock’s Neighbourhood Plan, a vital document which records the town’s assets and sets in stone its future ambitions. It is a vital piece of work which could help to protect from unsuitable planning applications and will hopefully shape decisions to come, giving communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood.

But it is a big undertaking – Westfield Parish Council have completed theirs – it took four years and totals 68 pages, and set apart the Parish’s vision for its

future. Westfield Ward Councillor for B&NES Council, Eleanor Jackson, who also sits on the B&NES Planning Committee, said that Neighbourhood Plans were considered carefully against new planning applications, with towns and parishes eligible for higher amounts (25%) of CIL funding (developers’ contributions) should a Neighbourhood Plan be in place.

Residents attending the meeting spoke of their aspirations for the plan and how it should be approached. Radstock Town Clerk, George Clutten, said that neighbouring Westfield’s plan template would be a good starting point. The plan will mean that residents can put forward where they would accept new homes, shops and offices to be built, what they should look like, and what infrastructure should support any new developments. It will identify both brownfield sites, but also flag green spaces for protection, whilst also addressing ecology and biodiversity in the local area. It will also be used to document the town’s rich heritage and conservation area.

Residents spoke about the importance of sustainable housing and avoiding commuting, better public transport links, the regeneration of the town centre, supporting local businesses and a community facility, such as the Methodist Church, which is due to close early next year.

Radstock reportedly has a third of children living below the poverty line and talk then moved to social housing and welfare.

Radstock Town Councillor Bruce Shearn, who Chairs the Town Council’s planning committee said: “We are going to have to make some hard choices over the next decade, as we need housing.” Cllr Nick Toogood added: “We need the right numbers, in the right places.” The Town Clerk told residents at the meeting that the Neighbourhood Plan wouldn’t stop developments completely, but instead of saying no, the plan would offer alternative, identified sites.

Those tasked with creating the Plan will also need to make sure that the community is represented across all demographics, including the town’s young people. It is a long process, with consultation events to be held along the way, and work eligible for funding. The various stages involved will include definining the neighbourhood area and documenting what is within it, community engagement, building an evidence base, identifiying themes, aims, visions and options, writing the plan, further consultations, submission, an independent examination, referendum, and finally, hopefully, the local planning authority approving the plan. It will be vital that the community gets behind the process, as without a number of respondents to surveys or consultations, the plan cannot be passed.

The meeting ended with a plea for the local people of Radstock to get involved. Cllr Bruce Shearn said: “It is not for Town Councillors to say what is wanted, it is for the people to tell us what they want.”

Cllr Chris Dando added: “If local areas do not create these plans, the Government will impose their own plan on an area. This is our last opportunity to get in before that happens, with a financial incentive (from CIL funding) which can be further invested in our town. But we need committed people to help us get there. At the end of it we can say how we created something really good.”

If you would like to offer your skills and live in any of the areas mentioned above, contact Radstock’s Town Clerk: [email protected]