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Plan for Lawnside could come from Ledbury community group
8:53am Friday 6th September 2013 in News
A RIVAL development plan, to challenge proposals for a 30,000 sq ft superstore on the Lawnwide Road site, could be submitted by a community group.
A meeting on the future of Lawnside is being organised by the town’s Neighbourhood Plan Group and county councillor Liz Harvey said one purpose would be to gauge public opinion on the community using so-called community right to build powers at Lawnside.
These powers from the Government’s Localism Act, and if supported by a referendum, would allow the building of anything from shops and businesses through to community facilities and playgrounds, and they could bypass the usual planning process.
Coun Harvey said she had “no idea” what the community might want to see built at Lawnside, but she sees the meeting as a way to possibly start answering that question.
She said: “It will be a good opportunity to test whether there is enthusiasm in principle to exercising the community right to buy and/or community right to build.
“I would expect any forthcoming consultation on the Lawnside area to provide a useful first opportunity to seek the public’s views on whether exercising this new right would be in the interests of the community.”
The move means there are now two community groups actively involved in the future of Lawnside.
The Town Plan Steering group, chaired by Coun Harvey, has registered a number of properties and land blocks at Lawnside as “community assets”, and these include the community hall, youth centre, swimming pool, Lawnside Road car park and recreation ground.
The steering group, under the Localism Act, would have the right to bid for all or any of these if they came onto the market and would have six months to find the money.
The Neighbourhood Plan group is organising the meeting to discuss “the right to build”.
Either it or the town plan group could seek to use ‘right to build’ powers if there is public backing.
Coun Harvey is a member of both groups and each one is in the process of creating plans for the future of Ledbury, to complement Herefordshire Council’s strategic plan – the authority’s planning blueprint for the next 25 years.
The developer Philip King, who is proposing a superstore for Lawnside, plans to attend the meeting as a “major stakeholder” and also sees it was a way to guage public opinion.
He said: “This is being organised in consultation with me as part of my community engagement.
"I said I wanted to hold discussions with all of the groups concerned, to assess what people would like. I’m in talks with both Coun Liz Harvey and the Neighbourhood Plan group.”
Coun Harvey said she had not met Mr King personally and had advised him, through e-mail, “of the contacts for the neighbourhood and town plan groups”.
A Herefordshire councillor for Ledbury, Peter Watts, is already calling for “checks and balances” for the whole process, such as the continual involvement of the town council.
He said: “I am wary and rather concerned about the way this is going. I would be unhappy, for instance, if the town council were to be informed after an event.”
Coun Harvey said: “I am wholly in favour of the town council’s close involvement throughout the discussions, consultations and debate on this matter.
"It is the body of elected representatives of the people of this town, after all.”
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