Referendum Scheduled for Neighbourhood Plan

After years of preparation and data gathering, the Oundle Neighbourhood Plan is nearing the final stages for drafting a formal plan. It aims to democratically develop future plans for recreation and sporting facilities, parking, employment, green spaces, tourism and retail.

To gather public opinion about how the town should grow, an extensive questionnaire was issued to every household, and included wide-ranging questions about residents’ opinions about future plans.

The council is funding the plan with a government Front Runners’ grant and £7000 from the Community Development Foundation to help with the costs of using external consultants.

From a population of around 5700, 616 replies were received, 55% of which were female.

The questionnaire provided some interesting responses. It was decided by 43% that a public access leisure centre and swimming pool should be constructed in the next 16 years, as well as a recycling centre. Whether these are realistically costed ambitions is another issue.

Opinions about Oundle’s healthcare were positive, with 87% saying that the Oundle Surgery does currently meet their needs.

However, transport was not as positive. 34% of all respondents identified transport difficulties getting around Oundle, although there was recognition of improved walking and cycle paths, particularly along the river.

With 81% of the respondents aged over 50 years of age, interests that reflected young families or youth were unrepresented. Only 8% agreed that facilities for youth should be provided over the next 16 years.

The questionnaire also generated opinions regarding employment and tourism, which provided a useful summary of how the town should develop in these areas for the future. The questions about green spaces within town included ones such as the location of a future cemetery and allotments, as well as questions on the future location of housing. 65% of respondents opposed large scale housing developments on the edge of Oundle.

The preferences indicated for housing types were distorted by the prevalence of older respondents, and did not reflect the housing needs that might have been identified had younger residents responded to the questionnaire.

Encouragingly, perhaps, 53% of those surveyed said they do their main household shopping in Oundle, although 64% said they would like to see a better range of shops in Oundle.

The next step for the Neighbourhood Plan is for the committee to make a draft plan incorporating the responses to the questionnaire. After review, a final plan will be drawn up. This will then be sent to the East Northamptonshire Council for consideration before an independent examination.

Finally, a referendum for the public to have its final say is expected in January 2016.

Freddy MacNaughton