Residents in Sedgefield are being urged to vote for a plan that will give the community a formal say in planning decisions in the town. The Sedgefield Plan will be put to a community referendum in the Methodist Church Hall on Thursday 12 September and if approved, it will become a statutory planning document that Durham County Council and other authorities must refer to when determining development proposals in the area.

Developed by Sedgefield Town Council and community volunteers, The Sedgefield Plan is a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish and contains policies about land use over the next 15 years. The plan contains a series of policies that will influence the quantity, type, density, design and style of future housing, along with community and sports facilities and open spaces, amenities for young people, and other matters relating to land use in the town. The plan also includes a Built-up Area Boundary (BUAB), which maps out where future development in Sedgefield should be allowed, with the policies setting out limitations on what will be permitted inside and outside that boundary.

Neighbourhood planning was formally introduced by the government through the Localism Act of 2011 and a Neighbourhood Plan (sometimes called a Neighbourhood Development Plan) is a way of helping local communities to influence planning for the area in which they live and work. In Sedgefield, the town council resolved to draft a plan in 2013 and The Sedgefield Plan was initially shaped by a steering group that was made up of various community volunteers and residents who shared their knowledge, time and experience to develop a plan that represented the needs and wishes of the community. Throughout the process, regular consultation ensured that residents supported the objectives and policies that have been included in the plan.

The draft plan was given overwhelming support at a public meeting early last year and the town council continued with the formal process to take it forward by submitting it to Durham County Council. Now, an Independent Examiner has given approval for The Sedgefield Plan to proceed to a community referendum on 12 September, which is being overseen by the county council. Everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to the question: “Do you want Durham County Council to use The Sedgefield Neighbourhood Plan to help it decide planning applications in the Sedgefield neighbourhood area?”. If more people vote ‘Yes’ than ‘No’, then Durham County Council will use The Sedgefield Plan to help it to determine future proposals relating to the parish.

Cllr Mel Carr, chair of Sedgefield Town Council, comments: “I urge everyone who has a vote to support The Sedgefield Plan with a ‘Yes’ vote on 12 September. Developing the plan has been a long and complex process, but the resulting document is very important for our community. Sedgefield has been subjected to a lot of development in recent years and it is vital that people here have more influence on the outcome of any future proposals.

“Our plan demonstrates that we have a strong community with a clear, positive vision, and we are determined to play a full and active role in how Sedgefield grows in the years to come. In itself, a Neighbourhood Plan does not prevent future development, but it can help limit it and manage it in a way that is in line with community wishes. Crucially, the plan must be referred to as a statutory document that carries weight when decisions are made, finally giving the people of Sedgefield a genuine say on future planning applications here.”

Voters who have requested postal ballots can return them as soon as they want and voting in person will take place in the Methodist Church Hall from 7:00am-10:00pm on Thursday 12 September.

The Sedgefield Plan document and archive material from throughout the process (including the historical record of the work undertaken by the steering group when it was active) can be viewed at www.thesedgefieldplan.co.uk or a copy can be read in the town council office.