A NEIGHBOURHOOD plan in Cumbria has become the first in the country to pass an independent examination.
The draft Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan – the first in the country to be successfully examined under the Localism Act – is unusual because it covers 17 parishes.
It will now go forward to a referendum of local residents. If it passes, it will be adopted by Eden District Council and used to help decide planning applications.
Neighbourhood planning is a new system of community led planning which allows residents to come together to produce their own development plan for their area.
The Upper Eden draft plan was produced by the Upper Eden Community Plan Group, which represents 17 Parish Councils across the Upper Eden area.
Eden District Council subsequently appointed planning consultant John Glester to review whether the draft plan should proceed to referendum.
Once minor amendments are made, the Council will publish the revised draft plan, the examiner's report and arrange for a neighbourhood referendum to be held on whether it is formally adopted.
The referendum is likely next March. It will cover residents within the plan's boundaries.
Malcolm Smith, the council's economy and planning portfolio holder, said he was "very proud" Eden was at the forefront of putting localism into action.
"I hand it to the parishes of the Upper Eden who have seized the opportunity to produce planning policies that they feel suit their local circumstances.
"The next stage is the referendum, and I urge everyone in the area to participate."
Planning minister Nick Boles described the examination as a significant milestone that represented a momentous achievement for the district of Eden.
"I wish them the very best as they proceed and I look forward to visiting Upper Eden and to finding out more about their exciting plans in the New Year."
Eden District Council said the examiner's report and details of the referendum would be published as soon as possible.
The draft plan includes policies on encouraging limited new development to help local people meet their own housing needs, as well as policies on housing on farms, housing and broadband.
Policies are generally in line with both national and existing Eden district planning policy, but aim to provide specific solutions to issues of importance to local residents.
Another and very different neighbourhood plan is likely to go to examination early in 2013.
It is for the market town of Thame in South Oxfordshire, which hopes to use the plan to allocate land for 775 new homes, for employment uses and for new shopping.
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