The plan, formally adopted on April 29 last year, is now an integral part of planning policy up to 2026 in the Royal Borough, and is even said to have altered the considerations of developers asking for planning permission.
Ascot and the Sunnings was the tenth area in the country to go to referendum on the proposed plan last year, when 91 per cent of residents who turned out voted in favour of it.
A delivery group formed of volunteer residents has worked to represent the views of the plan and the group recently celebrated news on the increased number of dismissed appeals since the plan came into force.
One member of the delivery group, Patrick Griffin, who is also chairman of the Society for the Protection of Ascot and Environs (SPAE), said: “It’s been an interesting year, it’s been positive. There have been a number of times the plan has had an impact, such as the tree replacement notices at Blacknest Park, it’s great for the community.
“Developers are thinking about the money, so I think they are thinking more about how the application will look because they know they’ll only have to pay to apply again if it doesn’t fit with the plan’s policies.” Protecting green belt land and maintaining the leafy character of the villages are just two key parts wrapped up in the nine-section plan, which Sunningdale Cllr Christine Bateson, lead member for Neighbourhood Planning in the Borough Council, says has proved an incredibly positive document.
Cllr Bateson said: “What’s important is it’s for the community. Residents voted for it and it’s become very important – at the time it was the highest vote in favour of a neighbourhood plan. It’s definitely having an impact when it comes to decisions, the panel now listen to the policies and there is a two-minute slot for community organisations such as the delivery group to have their say.” However there has been some controversy. Some residents have disagreed with the input of the neighbourhood plan which recently faltered plans for a much-needed new medical centre in Sunningdale.
Resident Duncan Rayner feels the low turnout, just 23 per cent of the 12,500 residents, means the plan has been imposed on people who did not vote for it. He said: “It seems to me Ascot and Sunninghill are trying to run Sunningdale and we’re quite happy on our own.” Nevertheless, chairman of Sunningdale Parish Council Christine Gadd said: “It’s had a positive impact. The Neighbourhood Plan has been a statutory document for a year now and is part of the RBWM Development Plan where its policies are considered at the initial determination stage and indeed by planning inspectors at appeals where due weight is given to the NP policies.” l SPAE is holding its 44th annual general meeting on Thursday, May 21, at Ascot Racecourse, which is open for all to attend.