On Thursday 22nd November, residents of Ashby will have the opportunity to vote in a local referendum on Ashby’s Neighbourhood Plan. The Friends of Ashby Bath Grounds are encouraging everyone interested in protecting the Bath Grounds and other green spaces in the town to turn out and vote in favour of adopting the plan. Committee member Dave Bigby said, “A high turn-out and strong vote for the Ashby’s Neighbourhood Plan is particularly important at a time when our Bath Grounds are, once again, threatened with building development”.
The Friends have been heavily involved in seeking the strongest possible protection for the Bath Grounds in the Neighbourhood Plan. If adopted, the plan will become part of the statutory Development Plan for the area and must be taken into account in all relevant planning decisions. It designates the Bath Grounds and Ashby’s other parks as “Local Green Space”, which provides an additional layer of planning protection as if they were Green Belt. Specifically, the draft Plan states that, “new development [on these sites] is ruled out other than in very special circumstances” and “the construction of new buildings on Local Green Spaces is inappropriate”. The Neighbourhood Plan also describes the Bath Grounds as “Playing Fields” which should assist in renewal of the lease when the time comes.
Ashby’s Neighbourhood Plan has been developed over a period of 5 years and is based on extensive work by a series of local focus groups, covering the areas of Housing and the Built Environment, Economic Growth, Accessibility and Transport, Town Centre Vitality and Education and Leisure with the whole process overseen by a Steering Group consisting of 4 Town Councillors, a representative from Ashby Civic Society, a representative from Ashby Town Team and Town Council officers. Several drafts went through a series of Community Consultations before being examined by a Government Planning Inspector in the spring. The 22nd November referendum will be the final stage in bringing the Plan to fruition.
Dr Bigby continued, “Whilst I and many others would have preferred the Neighbourhood Plan to have been stronger in limiting further housing development in Ashby, unfortunately it is a legal requirement that it does not conflict with strategic policies in the current District Local Plan. Despite these limitations, the Neighbourhood Plan will provide significant additional protection to the Bath Grounds and Ashby’s other parks. It also addresses important issues such as future housing mix for both market and affordable housing, design criteria for new housing and the need for a Masterplan and Design Code for the new Money Hill Development agreed in conjunction with the Town Council.”
The Friends of Ashby Bath Grounds are also pleased to report that they have now received over 7400 signatures for their petition against any house building on the Bath Grounds. This will be presented to the District Council if and when the threatened planning application is eventually submitted.