Stroud Town Council has agreed to create a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the town centre and Cheapside area.
The NDP, once completed and approved by the community, would become a statutory planning document that can be used to support or challenge planning applications.
The designated area will cover the town centre including Merrywalks, the Cheapside area and the main gateways into the town.
The power of Neighbourhood Development Plans was revealed earlier this month, when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles overturned a planning inquiry decision for 100 new homes in Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, because it conflicted with a Neighbourhood Plan.
Leonora Rozee, former Deputy Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate and a Stroud resident, has been involved in the Cheapside Opportunities Working Group.
“The recent decision in Leicestershire shows the power of the Neighbourhood Development Plan.,” she said. “It does carry that legal weight.”
Earlier this year the town council requested a group of planning experts to prepare a report on Cheapside and its potential.
“The progressive re-opening of the canal offers a huge opportunity to Stroud,” said Prof. Hugh Barton, Emeritus Professor of Planning, UWE, Bristol, who lead the production of the report.
“There could be an expansion of the town centre down to the canal, with more housing and commercial activity triggered by waterfront activity. It could transform the vitality of Stroud.”
Councillors decided that probable developments at Cheapside could affect the entire town centre and any Neighbourhood Development Plan needed to include the whole area.
“The alternative of not having a Neighbourhood Development Plan leaves us open to unwanted and inappropriate plans,” said town councillor Kevin Cranston.
The process to create a NDP will take several months and involve all members of the community. The final part of the process will be a referendum where residents in Stroud Parish can vote on the plan.
“While the town council is leading this process it is truly a community project,” said councillor Steve Hurrell, who has chaired the working group on the proposal.
“It will be the views and opinions of the community that will shape this plan. It is an opportunity for people to have a say on what their town will look like in the future.”
The town council has submitted an application to be a Designated Neighbourhood Area and will set up a steering group involving key members of the community.
In the early autumn the main work will begin. There will be a series of public meetings to explain the way communities can have their say in developing the plan.
The steering group will then gather these opinions, issues and challenges and use them to produce a vision and objectives which will form the basis of the NDP.
A draft plan will then be drawn up and following community consultation it will be submitted to Stroud District Council for examination.
Once the draft plan passes examination the district council carries out a referendum in the Stroud Parish so that residents can have a say about the plan. If more than 50% of those voting vote ‘yes’ for the Neighbourhood Development Plan then it becomes a statutory planning document.
For more information about Neighbourhood Development Plans, log on to www.grcc.org.uk