A summary of the Wye with Hinxhill Neighbourhood Plan has now been distributed by patchworkers. The full plan is on the parish council website and at various locations in the village. I have also uploaded the full plan here.
So what to say about it? Firstly that it has required a huge amount of work – particularly from Councillors Tony Shoults and John Mansfield. It is an evidence-based plan for the village. That evidence has been validated, checked and rechecked. It is a suitably comprehensive document that sets out to maintain our village’s identity: to keep it as a walkable settlement, to prevent it being overrun by traffic and to stop it becoming a town rather than a village.
That said, there are a few issues which have been bothering me about it.
The first, as identified by the publishers of Wyeweb, is the sudden elevation of the village centre for the Grade 1 buildings into the policy section of the plan.
I have written previously about my scepticism on this issue. Wye already has plenty of community buildings. We are developing the village hall. Therefore I don’t think we should make this a policy.
Instead I would favour wording which puts the onus on Imperial to find a use for these buildings. They own them after all. They are the ones who need to apply for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their preservation and upkeep. So let’s just be brief. “To develop the Grade 1 buildings in a way which will be sympathetic to their history and which will facilitate public access.” If they are suggesting a village centre, please let them do the legwork.
The second issue concerns Cycle Route 18. Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular pastime both for residents and visitors to the village. The village lies on Cycle Route 18 which has been made off-road between Chartham and Canterbury, and, more recently, between Godmersham and Chilham.
Last year there were plans to build an off-road section between Wye and Ashford which were, I understand, only scuppered by a sudden volte face by one of the key landowners.
Councillor Mansfield has pointed out that these matters are referred to in the main section of the Neighbourhood Plan (page 13. Section 2.1.2 Landscape and statutory protection of the environment). However there is not much consideration as to how to push forward the matter of an off-road cycle route 18.
I think we should rectify this. I believe that, given the level of traffic on Oxenturn and Olantigh Roads, and the fact that this traffic is likely to increase with the construction of Junction 10a, we should make it a matter of village policy to support an off-road cycle path between Ashford and Eggarton Lane (to link up with the off-road section between Godmersham and Chilham).
Ideally in fact, I think we should be identifying a possible route and talking to landowners about their thoughts on the matter – so we all know where we stand. Isn’t that what a Neighbourhood Plan is for?
Finally, a section that I wrote: the idea of a Riverside Park. I would like to put it on record that I am not wedded to the idea of a Riverside Park or a bathing pool on the river. I merely feel that Wye residents should have better access to the river and it should be better looked after. How we achieve that should be a matter for discussion.
I said ‘finally’ but actually I’m going to go on.
The issue of what is a policy and what is a project continues to bother me. Why has the day care centre been admitted as ‘policy’ while community energy and cycle paths round the village are projects? Perhaps it’s because a day care centre would support that other policy – the village centre in the grade 1 buildings?
Of course I’d like a few policies to back up my pet projects! Policy number 1/ that the village should improve riverside access and use of the river 2/ that cycle route 18 should be off-road between Ashford and Eggarton Lane 3/ that the village should generate energy for community use 4/ that the parish should continue to support farming education 5/ that landowners should not remove hedgerows or stands of trees within the parish without the parish council’s permission.
Now I really have gone on too long.
Let me end on a positive note. Despite those niggles, I do think that the Neighbourhood Plan is an excellent document. It will become even better if we all comment and suitable adjustments are made. And, yes, please support those recently dreamt-up pet policies. They are rather good don’t you think?