Ongar Neighbourhood Plan – Major Milestone Reached
Ongar Neighbourhood Plan is soon to be on its way for external examination and expected to be made into Planning Law shortly after. Ongar Town Council submitted the plan, with accompanying documents, to EFDC last month for the final stages of publicity at regulation 16, external examination, and local referendum. This will ensure development and planning applications coming forward will need to comply with Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Policies.
After identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for Ongar, land-use policies were drafted to reflect public opinion, ensuring they did not repeat nor were contrary to EFDC’s emerging Local Plan. (such policies would not pass external examination). Policies in neighbourhood plans provide more detailed or specific policies relevant to the local area. Ongar is a small rural centre serving surrounding settlements, but the majority of EFDC’s population live in urban/suburban towns bordering on Greater London. Thus the character and the needs of such communities are quite different, so some of the more general policies in EFDC Local Plan do not serve us particularly well in Ongar. We are fortunate to have a historic centre surrounded by unspoilt countryside, but today’s downside is that there is no longer much local employment, or public transport, neither of which we can provide. Recent Ongar developments have not always been in character with the local area, such as having higher density and insufficient parking provision. Various recreational, sports and community facilities have also been under threat and open spaces have been eroded.
With this understanding there has been much to get our teeth into to draft policies that would protect and enhance Ongar for the future, satisfy the Ongar community and not contradict policies set by the district EFDC! Ongar Neighbourhood Plan has 15 Policies covering Regeneration, Environment and Design, and Community and Transport Infrastructure. Ongar also has an accompanying Projects and Actions Appendix and Ongar Design Guide.
Local opinion influenced the policies and rationale throughout– from the first public meeting to the thoughtful and helpful responses in the various surveys, workshops, events and correspondence. Every policy in the neighbourhood plan had to be supported with sufficient hard evidence. The process involved a great deal of work for many volunteers, particularly the ONPCG committee, and we are most grateful for all those who contributed in any way. The committee also consulted a variety of specialists and professionals. The approach has genuinely produced a Neighbourhood Plan with a high degree of consensus within the community, about how Ongar should develop over the coming years.
After considering the comments from the public and statutory consultees to the public consultation (Reg 14), some draft policies were amended where appropriate, or stronger evidence and justification was included to ensure the policies were more robust.
Ongar community has stood firm in the expectation of retaining our rural character, respecting and enhancing our historic and natural environments, but enabling Chipping Ongar historic core to adapt as a vibrant 21st century town centre. Sustainable development should ensure sufficient family homes similar to the existing prevailing density, well designed with distinctive local identity, off street parking, open spaces and with necessary infrastructure provided up front. We are pleased to note that revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) July 2021 and the National Design Guide and Code 2021 strongly promote these points above– the issues that you care about – and are right at the heart of Ongar’s Neighbourhood Plan. See www.ongarneighbourhoodplan.uk
Mary Dadd (Chairman) & Dean Walton (Vice Chairman)
Ongar Neighbourhood Plan Community Group,
Article published in October 2021 Ongar News