Local communities are being actively encouraged to plan for their futures. This is a key thrust of the governmentís Localism Act 2012 and a further development of past initiatives which led, for example, to the production of Steepís Village Design Statement (VDS) which was adopted in 2001. A Parish Plan sets out in more detail than the VDS an assessment of the area and how community action can meet local needs. This can help in prioritising resources and provide important information to help influence the policies, decisions and actions of others. It belongs to the community and it is delivered by the community in partnership with organisations such as Steep Parish Council, East Hampshire District Council, Hampshire County Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.
East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) is supporting community planning and further information can be found at their website. EHDC provides advice about the topics that should be covered, the process to be followed and other sources of information.
The range of issues that can be addressed by a Parish Plan includes:
Our environment - landscape, buildings, open space, conservation
Social and community matters - such as housing, isolation, health, care for the young and the elderly, crime and policing/neighbourhood watch
The local economy - farming, local produce, self-employment, local employment, commuting, tourism
Infrastructure - broadband and other utility services, energy sources and how they are provided
Transport and traffic - speed/safety, parking, public transport, road conditions, footpaths, cycling
The Localism Act 2012 also enables communities to develop Neighbourhood Plans which can focus on the specific projects to address important local priorities, particularly concerning housing development and growth. Those plans can have statutory authority and hence involve a more demanding process. However, Parish Plans provide an important context for Neighbourhood Plans, and help to identify areas which may be suitable for that approach.