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I’m Jeff Rhodes, I’m a local resident volunteer rather than a Parish Councillor. I was asked by my Parish Council (Gnosall Parish Council in Staffordshire) to Chair the Neighbourhood Plan Working group, primarily for two reasons: (a) I’m a Chartered Town Planner and have worked in planning and development for around 30 years, both public and private sector and (b) I was an independent local resident, not on the Parish Council or part of any action group. That was in late 2013 and our Neighbourhood Plan is now in place, being adopted in November last year, the first NP in Stafford Borough. We were then approached to nominate a couple of Champions – hence me being here.
As well as successfully producing a NP, start to finish in a couple of years I was particularly pleased to have done it at virtually nil cost to the local community. We had an initial £7K grant from Locality for some early stage planning consultancy support, but after that we did it ourselves. Obviously that was helped by the fact that I am a planner myself, plus a colleague on the group was skilled with document production and technical editing. That said, it did involve a lot of work in our spare time outside work, evenings and weekends. My first advice to any group starting off would be to think what skill sets you need and then put a call out in the community for volunteers with those skill sets to help out, especially if costs are a concern, which they always are. You may be surprised what local talents you have on your doorstep, which can save you a small fortune as well as providing better local knowledge than an external consultant.
Details of our Neighbourhood Plan are on Gnosall Parish Council website
I also did an article about it for the West Midlands RTPI branch newslwtter “Tripwire”
The Parish Council has offered to host a “show and tell” type evening for other local NP groups as we’ve had a few enquiries.
All the best