Residents of Winkleigh have overwhelmingly backed plans that will take its ancient roots and turn them into future foundations.
More than 90 per cent of the 32 per cent of the villagers who turned out to cast their ballot voted in favour of approving the Neighbourhood Plan for Winkleigh when they went to polls on June 24.
The plan for Winkleigh â€“ once named the best place in England to raise a family â€“ aims to ensure the parish remains an inclusive, economically sustainable community, contributes to an improved quality of life, and has its valuable heritage and environment protected.
Located in Torridge and between Dartmoor and Exmoor, the village topped the list which looked at schools, crime, amenities, affordable homes, local birth rates, as well as the amount of green space an area had.
The historic farming village topped a list of 2,400 postcodes in England and Wales ranked according to their suitability for family living after analysts examined more than 60 sets of data.
Penny Griffiths, from the Neighbourhood Plan steering group, said: â€œWe are very pleased with the turnout and the result and now it is about working with Torridge District Council and getting the local distinctiveness. The turnout shows that we engaged with people and it is very good and we were getting younger people voting which is important and what is required.â€
Councillor Simon Newton, Torridge District Council ward member for Winkleigh, added: â€œThe Neighbourhood Plan is an excellent initiative that will allow the community of Winkleigh to influence and control many areas of future development within their neighbourhood. It is a fine example of a local community stepping up and taking control of its own destiny.â€
The Rt. Hon. Geoffrey Cox, MP for Torridge and West Devon, added: â€œI would like to commend the Parish Council and Winkleigh Neighbourhood Plan Group for all the hard work that has gone into preparing the Neighbourhood Plan.
â€œNeighbourhood Plans are important in giving local people the opportunity to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood, shaping the development and growth of the local area in line with community needs and priorities by being taken into consideration alongside the Local Plan and other material considerations, and I hope the plan will become an important influence on future change in the parish.â€
The Winkleigh Neighbourhood Plan covers the hill-top village of Winkleigh, which was recorded in the Domesday Book, as well as the hamlet of Hollocombe to the north.
The plan sets out a bold vision for the Parish which addresses the challenge of enabling Winkleigh to build on its strengths â€“ its environmental assets, its history and heritage, while delivering sustainable economic and social opportunities which will allow it to thrive and grow for the benefit of local people.
ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES
Community feedback suggests that a key issue for the parish was to ensure that development does not erode the biodiversity, habitats, landscapes and character of the environment and that assets of local value and interest are protected, enhanced and sensitively managed.
The distinctive landscapes of Winkleigh and Hollocombe should be safeguarded and enhanced where opportunities arise, the plan adds, saying: â€œOn greenfield sites, new boundaries are planted to complement existing field boundaries and patterns with new hedges and banks being created wherever they are lost.â€
Where appropriate, developers will be expected to provide publicly accessible vehicle charging points, while the plan promotes renewable energy generation that provides community benefits.
Large scale development was only supported by three per cent of respondents to the initial Neighbourhood Plan consolation, with the majority favouring sites of less than 15 homes, but outline planning permission for schemes at Eggesford Road (23 unites), Townsend Farm (55 units) and the Kingsley Plastics site (70 units) have already been granted.
The North Devon and Torridge Local Plan expects to see an increase of around 10 per cent in housing numbers in Winkleigh up until 2031, but the parish council only supported a more modest growth of five per cent.
It adds that if any additional land has to be developed in the village to meet the five-year land supply, then development should be â€˜masterplannedâ€™, should not make traffic congestion or parking in the village worse, and deliver a range of community benefits to meet the additional demand, such as affordable housing or educational or social infrastructure.
If land to the south west of the village is developed, then an alternative route from Hatherleigh Road to the A3124 to avoid Townsend Hill should be considered, as should improving community infrastructure including medical facilities, while the re-routing of bus services and a potential park-and-change facility could be part of the site development.
COMMUNITY LIFE AND WELLBEING
The plan says that Winkleigh has a thriving community life with a good range of groups, societies and organised activities that bring people together, mainly focused around the Village Hall, the Community Centre and the Sports Centre, although the church also holds importance.
It aims to ensure community life continues to thrive by safeguarding the existing community facilities and assets against their loss and to ensure new facilities are provided to meet the changing and growing needs of the community.
While the plan hopes to retain the three main community buildings, if this proves unsustainable or there is no longer a need for them in their current form, any future uses of the land should demonstrate community benefits.
The plan also hopes to increase access to the countryside, saying that ironically for a community nestled in the countryside, access to walks and green spaces is restricted as there are few communal outdoor areas, no parks, and particularly in Winkleigh village, poor access to public right of way or bridle paths.
It adds: â€œUnlike many urban areas, there are comparatively few local opportunities for people to gain the benefits of walking for health or outdoor activities. New green infrastructure should be provided as part of planned development on the allocated housing site and it has long been an aspiration of the community to create a footpath between the village and Winkleigh woods, an area of open access woodland and a popular dog walking destination.
The plan aims to improve the level and variety of employment in the parish, to seek out opportunities to improve skills levels, promote a mixed economy, support measures to improve the effectiveness and vibrancy of the villageâ€™s retail businesses and encourage local spending, and the promote the potential of Winkleigh for sustainable tourism and countryside recreation.
Appropriate development at Winkleigh Airfield recognising its potential for employment and environmental enhancement, is also an objective the plan supports.
It adds: â€œWinkleigh Airfield is recognised as a focal point for economic and employment opportunities that could complement and enhance Winkleighâ€™s role as a local centre. The Airfield is not considered an appropriate location for residential development of further food-related retail as it is detached from the village with its range of services and this would lead to further dispersed development in the countryside.â€
The plan says that Winkleighâ€™s location in the heart of Devon means that residents have to travel in all directions for work, service, leisure and other activities, and that they also drive to the village for shopping, the school and other facilities.
There is no public transport to Chulmleigh, where the health centre and secondary school are based, nor the nearby rail stations at Eggesford or Morchard Road.
Objectives of transport, travel and movement in the plan involved placing pedestrians and cyclists at the heart of future plans and the reduce traffic speed by examining how village gateways and rat-runs can be modified to slow traffic and signal the village environment, such as realigning carriageways, traffic calming measures, and signage.
Pedestrian networks and new walking and cycling routes to key services, and between neighbourhood and to the open countryside, are to be improved, the Plan hopes.
The design and layout of any new development should prioritise movement of walking and cycling, then public transport, and finally, private motorised transport, while new developments that add to traffic and parking congestion will not be supported unless the impact can be successfully mitigated.
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