16/10/2016 – Response to the Neighbourhood Plan Proposals
East Grinstead Labour Party has been fully involved in the consultations leading up to the current Neighbourhood Plan which is now going for referendum on 20 October 2016. We drew up our alternative Town Plan in 2012 and it remains on the Town Council website. Since then we have proposed amendments to the Town Councils proposals and amended our own proposals. Our key concerns are :-
- Maintenance of East Grinstead as an attractive Sussex Market Town and a pleasant place to live.
- Significant increase in the provision of affordable housing both to buy and social housing to rent.
- Improvements to the transport infrastructure to relieve the town centre from excessive traffic. These include better bus services and pedestrianisation of the High Street and improved cycle and pedestrian access to the town centre.
- Support for local businesses to enable them to thrive so as to maintain employment opportunities and an end to uncontrolled conversion of office premises to poor quality private housing.
Our reaction to the first Neighbourhood Plan was that it was an opportunity missed with very few of our concerns being met but since then the Council and the Independent Examiner have recommended a number of changes which have been adopted and go some way to meeting our concerns. We are especially pleased to see an increase in the requirements for affordable housing including a mix of private, social rented and shared equity, in line with National Policy.
We are pleased that the plan contains provision for the use of technology to improve bus priority signalling, identification of available car parking, encouragement of electric vehicles and public transport usage, improvement to cycle ways and signage. We are disappointed that the concept of pedestrianisation of the High Street has not been taken up but recognise that more work needs to be done on this proposal as it has many implications for the town centre. We will continue to campaign for this policy for the future.
Our major concern however is that if we do not adopt a Neighbourhood plan then we are open to piecemeal development by all and sundry. There is no prospect of a Mid Sussex District plan being in place in the near future. A neighbourhood plan adopted by referendum gives East Grinstead some protection against unwanted development and also enables us to continue to campaign with the respective authorities for the improvements we desire.
Local Residents can also use the plan to hold the Council to account on issues like affordable housing. East Grinstead Labour Party will be involved in the monitoring process of the plan after it has been adopted.
We would strongly recommend our members to read the information provided by the Town council, view the plan at East Court and the Library and talk to Town Council representatives at local meetings and at the Queens Walk table on Saturday mornings. Our view is that the plan is worth voting YES for as a step towards a better future for all in East Grinstead.