TAKING CONTROL: Jim Boaden works on Startforth’s emerging neighbourhood plan
TAKING CONTROL: Jim Boaden works on Startforth’s emerging neighbourhood plan

A DALE group has taken a step closer to having a stronger voice in how development takes place in their village.

People in Startforth began writing their own neighbourhood plan about a year ago. Now the group is in the final stages of making sure their neighbourhood plan’s objectives match up with county and national policy.

Resident Jim Boaden, who forms part of the group producing the document, explained the need for the plan came about when a developer proposed building homes on a field near the village’s former school.

He said: “We were told by Durham County Council planning committee we need a neighbourhood plan to stop repeated planning applications on the same piece of land.

“The other reason was the county council’s Durham Plan was rejected so some people saw an opportunity to submit planning applications without the county plan being in place.

“We have got to look at the benefits of it – we have two great big housing estates, do we want more?

“There is massive building going on not far from here and do we want to have a say in it? We need a plan to have a voice.”

The neighbourhood plan currently has four objectives to cover the environment, housing, heritage assets and community infrastructure.

Regarding housing, the plan currently calls for developments to be small and appropriate to the scale of the village.

Mr Boaden said the plan would prevent Startforth from being “concreted over”.

He added: “It is a rural village and people come to live here because it is like that and if you put up another large estate it is not going to be that anymore.”

Before drawing up their plan, the group held a “village fair” during which they put up a message board to gauge what people wanted.

Mr Boarden said: “We were specifically aiming at young people with families as well as others. We had 250-odd comments and views, so it was very helpful.

“The big thing is people don’t want another great big housing development – a bit of infill is okay. We need more amenities this side of the river.”

The former school is also considered important.

He said: “One of the strong feelings we have is those buildings be for community use, and one of them definitely is the reopening of the school there.”

Once the plan has been matched up with the draft County Durham Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework, the group will put the neighbourhood plan out on a six-week consultation so people in the village can express their views on it.

People who want to keep up to date on the plan can follow developments on Facebook by searching for Startforth Neighbourhood Plan. They can also email their views to startforthneighbourhoodplan@gmail.com.