Neighbourhood Plan in Levenshulme – A Resident’s Guide

With just under a week left for the residents of Levenshulme to take a look over and make comments on the application received by the council on the designation of a Neighbourhood Planning Forum, Love Levenshulme thought it would be a great opportunity to find out a bit more about what it means for the area, who’s currently involved and how more people can get involved. We invited Ruth Sutton, local resident, active Incredible Edible volunteer and environmentalist to help us get a better insight.

Ruth Sutton - Local resident and all round good gal.
Ruth Sutton – Local resident and all round good gal.

Hello Ruth! Firstly, tell us a little about yourself? How you found yourself a resident of Levenshulme and what got you interested in community activities?

I moved to Levenshulme from Leeds three years ago. I grew up in Manchester but have lived away for about twenty years. I moved back to join my partner who lives here.  

I lost my allotment when I moved and when I found myself missing it I became involved with Incredible Edible, Levenshulme. Digging and planting is just starting again for the new year and we’ll be doing more and more as the days get longer.  

I study energy efficient construction and the Neighbourhood Planning forum is an opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge about the planning system and to help create a Levenshulme that is environmentally aware.   

So, can you explain in the simplest terms what a Neighbourhood Plan is?

Any development must submit details to Manchester City Council for permission. The council will make its decision whether or not grant approval, based on national and local guidance, and other responses from non-council bodies.  A Neighbourhood Plan would sit alongside the national and council planning documents to help guide decisions made within the Levenshulme area. More than this, communities can use neighbourhood planning to permit the development they want to see, without the need for planning applications   

A Neighbourhood Plan is a document describing how a community would like development to take place in their area. It could identify areas of land for protection and areas for development, propose conditions relating to parking, identify preferred types of development for the high street, or describe how development could look.

Who is devising and guiding the Neighbourhood Plan in Levenshulme?

At present there is a committee with seven members. Some names will be familiar to many as people active in the area. (Chairman, Maria van Elk, Vice Chair, Jeremy Hoad, Treasurer, Thea Wingfield Secretary, Justin Bake. Additional members: Peter Best, Sian Griffith, Peter Naughton and Jim Paris)

In addition, the forum application to the council has wider representation from religious institutions in the area, Levenshulme Traders Association,residents and councillors. Anyone who lives or works in the area can join the forum.

What are the perceived pros and cons to developing a Neighbourhood Plan for an area like Levenshulme? 

Levenshulme is an urban space with little spare land for development so it may not seem immediately clear how a planning document will benefit the area. However, the spaces we have are highly valued, buildings and streets have historic features that some would like to protect. A planning document would be legally recognised guidance document which must consider as part of their decision making.

Of concern, is that a Neighbourhood Planning document would act as the voice for the area. Setting a single set of values and wishes down in a document will therefore omit different views. When planning already allows for people to respond to applications: any individual can submit support or opposition to any development proposal is such a definitive response wanted? The counter is that with the current planning system, people are only able to be responsive and predominantly defensive. The Neighbourhood Plan could describe what the community wants and act as positive vision.

Proposed Designated Area for Levenshulme Planning Forum
Proposed Designated Area for Levenshulme Planning Forum

Are there any working examples of a similar Neighbourhood Plan locally or further afield?

The Localism Act is in its infancy so many groups are in the early stages, like the Levenshulme group. That said, there are over 100 areas that have had their referendums.

How can more residents get involved and why do you think it’s important that more do?

Everyone is welcome to come to meetings and be actively involved in developing the Neighbourhood Plan.

In order to understand how the community would like Levenshulme to be, there will be various periods of consultation and information gathering. Everyone’s opinion is important, and all are encouraged to offer the to share their views at these opportunities.  Among the many issues already identified are parking and traffic management, waste management and the built environment.

In the future, there will be a referendum in which the whole community will be eligible to vote. The decision will be whether to accept or decline the proposed planning document.  If accepted, then the document becomes part of planning guidance for the area. We’re still a long way from that point but that is the ultimate goal!     

Where can people find information and updates in the future?

Through our website and by joining our mailing list.

Finally, what do you already love about Levenshulme and what would be on your personal wishlist for its future?

The local sustainable businesses give Levenshulme a character that is not immediately obvious from the high street. I’ve been surprised at what’s on offer. I’ve been to world music events at the Klondyke, feasted at the Levy Market and been to a pop up restaurant in Neil Buttery’s front room, new owner of POD.

My hopes for the future are for big changes so we can adapt to climate change. We need to change our lifestyles. Small decisions now can affect how easily the bigger changes in the future are to make. Insulating homes, creating sustainable drainage systems and changing the priority on roads from cars to pedestrians and cycles are on my wish list.

Where Can I Find the Neighbourhood Planning Forum Application?

For more information on how you can make comments on the submitted application for the Neighbourhood Planning Forum, including supporting documents and maps go to the Manchester City Council website

 

 

 

 

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