The Town Council are working on delivering a Newquay Neighbourhood Plan (the NNP) for Newquay, which will be the legal planning policies that govern land use in the parish. Currently residents have little ability to influence planning decisions yet this is an issue that people feel strongly about and is emotive. This a unique opportunity for communities to shape what happens in their area, and plan for their future – their views and participation will have an effect shaping the economic, social and environmental future of their town.
The aspiration of this project is to harness local volunteer power and really get out there and engage and consult with as many of our residents as possible. The results of this will inform our policies meaning the NNP is a truly community developed plan.
We are progressing well, we are on schedule to develop and submit our Plan by the end of the Year to be voted upon in a formal Referendum in the Spring of 2017. We have a dedicated and talented team of local volunteers – Newquay is blessed with residents whose qualifications and depth of professionalism are really adding to the plan. And the Young People in our local Schools, the ones who will have to live longest with the decisions we make now, have already hugely contributed and are already planning to do more.
We have been successful in obtaining grants, a total of £8,000 this year in addition to £7,000 last year; that allows us to buy-in the extra independent and unbiased support to provide the necessary expertise and training to support our volunteers. And to ensure the policies that we include can face up to the strong legal challenge that we will inevitably face from some developers who will feel these limit what they want to do.
Most of all we need to progress an effective communications and consultation strategy. Because the biggest challenge we face is involving every resident and business in our parish that stretches from the River Gannel to Watergate Bay and Tregurrian. In a subject which on the face of it can seem dry and uninvolving – that is until a block of flats (or even just a single house) is proposed for a favourite beauty spot; or a purple building appears sticking out like a sore thumb for miles around. Or even a brand new good looking development appears whose cladding, metal work etc fade away and rust in a few years of our seaside weather. Or fixings that cannot stand up to a breath of wind.
That involvement is essential – we need to be sure that what we say is what the community wants – and most important to provide the evidence that what we do is genuinely community supported. It is crucial that the community are continually informed and engaged in the NNP process and that people that work and live in the area (irrespective of their circumstances) all have the opportunity to be involved and be part of this process. This is not about us telling them what we want, it is the community telling us and having a mechanism for making it a reality.
But we have to accept that we have not yet achieved that level of community support we would like. And not yet convinced that this time is different; this time there is a real opportunity for every individual to have their voice heard and to make a difference. We have hundreds of residents who have responded to the work on the plan so far – but for a town of this size, we need thousands.
So expect to hear more from us, more stories in the press, more direct mail (with the opportunity for prepaid response), more events over the coming months.
And finally a plea, keep an eye out for the questionnaires that are being issued or for the workshops we schedule on our main policy themes to which anyone interested is invited. We have a website at www.Newquayplan.org where all our research, all our questionnaires, all our announcements re available. Do get in touch – We need you to contribute.