Did Desborough Town Council take their eyes off the ball on the Neighbourhood Plan?

I think it is a fair point about the NP and ‘taking eyes off the ball’. I would make the point that it was the Conservative administration that all resigned and left the NP on the table.

In respect of the Desborough Labour Party  it has to be said that there were no Labour Councillors from 2015 to 2018 and for the first twelve months, after the 2018 elections,  there were only two Labour members of the council. Jo Watson joined us in April 2019 so she has now been on the council for two years and David Larmour was co-opted in September 2020 so he has had less than a year.

The whole thing has been something of a ‘moving feast’ and probably could have been progressed quicker. However, it must be said that at no point have ‘Labour’ been in control of the council.

From May 2018 we were all initially expecting to serve for just one year. For the early period we had no Clerk of the Council and the new clerk walked in to quite a mess as his predecessor had been off sick for some time. It would also be fair to say that the early days were, to some degree, dominated by the Library issue.

When we did pick it up it was clear that the October 2017 version of the Neighbourhood Plan had, to some extent, been overtaken by events and there were questions as to whether or not it was ‘fit for purpose’. Fifteen Councillors have resigned from the council since the 2017 version was printed and continuity is a factor on a larger project such as this.

It was agreed that we would engage ‘Navigus’ to conduct a health check on the Neighbourhood Plan and they reported back in October 2020. Their report was quite damning really and we almost had to go back to the drawing board to start again.

The sub- committee (along with a member of the public and a local business representative) met in December 2020 and ploughing through all the documentation was not made any easier by the current situation (Zoom).  The meeting in December 2020 which I referred to in my earlier response (see above) made some significant progress but there is still some way to go.

With regard to the budget, I believe the council will need to engage consultants to get the Neighbourhood Plan completed, when finished it will have to be printed and an on-line version made available, it will be subject a process of evaluation (and possible amendment) and I have no doubt that there are significant further costs to come.

Whatever the situation after 5th May I do believe that there will be ‘eyes on the ball’ and the Neighbourhood Plan will finally get completed but I would hesitate to try and put a time scale on that.

(Phil Sawford 15-04-2021)

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