THE MP for Thame has hailed the way the town’s groundbreaking planning strategy is coming together after getting a thumbs up from a government minister after a recent visit.
Planning minister Greg Clark MP was in Thame last week with John Howell to hear feedback about the new Neighbourhood Plan.
Last year the town was chosen as one of the frontrunners for Neighbourhood Planning where the community has a much bigger say in how their area should develop.
One of the key points is that major decisions on the future of Thame will be decided by a public referendum.
During the minister’s visit, he listened to a series of presentations regarding the plan’s progress from councillors and representatives of community and residents’ groups.
Mr Howell said: “I spoke to Greg and he was very impressed with what’s going on.
“The feedback was very positive and showed we are going in the right direction.
“It is clear that people are taking it very seriously and putting forward sensible suggestions.”
Mr Howell is the creator of Open Source Planning, the paper on which the government’s planning reforms are based.
He revealed his thinking when he was writing the paper, saying: “I had a firm belief that given the opportunity to shape where they live, local people would want to participate with confidence and would do so positively.”
The Thame MP said the fears of developers that such plans would be used to frustrate development have been disproved.
“Neighbourhood Plans are a key component of restoring local control over the planning process.
“They can make a big contribution to shaping the future of a local community and in Thame’s case that means not losing its market-town character.
“Unlike the old-style parish and town plans, Neighbourhood Plans become a formal part of the planning system.”
One of the main decisions by the Neighbourhood Plan will be concerning core strategy and where to allocate the 775 additional houses up until 2027. Mr Howell said that if the plan can progress it may be possible to have the first Thame referendum as soon as November this year.