The Ross-on-Wye Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) started six weeks of formal Public Consultation on Friday, November 9th. Melvin Reynolds, Chair of the Plan Steering group, told the Ross Gazette that a common question asked is: “There’s already planning permission for all the homes that are allocated, why allocate more sites?” Melvin says that it is worth backing up a bit before attempting to answer that. National government sets targets for all local authorities to meet. Herefordshire Council’s overall Local Plan commits to delivering 16,500 new homes (plus a contingency) by 2031.

The Herefordshire Local Plan includes a specific target for the delivery of 900 homes, again plus a contingency and 10 hectares (about 25 acres) of employment land in Ross-on-Wye.

Around 900 homes are already built or have permission, so about 90 to find in order to meet the combined target including a 10% contingency.

The local input indicated that the NDP should include as much as possible because the contingency allowance may need to be increased to 15% to cover changes in central government requirements, because the ‘five-year land supply’ is not currently being met and this leaves developers room to push through proposals and to keep things under the maximum local control, which really just summarises the previous two points.

Some housing sites can be formally ‘allocated’. After much discussion the steering groups has agreed the areas shown in purple on the plan, all of which have already been proposed in the so called Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment – a process carried out by Herefordshire Council. The sites proposed are at 1 Cleeve Field, 2 Merrivale Lane, 3 Stoney Stile, 4 The Chase Hotel and 5 The Ryefield Centre. These would deliver around 70 homes (maximum 90) plus some allotments.

One big and very important area — a whole currently poor quality ‘wedge’ out of the town — sometimes called Broadmeadows/Tanyard and that is shown in orange on the plan. This cannot be formally allocated because of the enormous amount of expensive technical work that would have to be done to justify allocation, but it is in the plan as a development area to be supported. In total, and with considerable work, it could accommodate employment land as well as about 180 homes.

The NDP can, in principle, ‘designate’ small areas of green space valued by the local community as ‘Local Green Spaces’. To satisfy the legislation, these need to be small and have valued qualities for recreation, wildlife or archaeology. There also has to be evidence that the areas are valued by local people. The plan shows the sites that have emerged from this process, after sifting through a long list to select those that met the key criteria.

Owners of these areas of land have been contacted for their views on designation; their reactions have varied.

However, when the plan is formally examined, it is the examiner who will decide whether or not they should be designated.

To view the plan online, visit Paper versions of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, its appendices and comment forms are available at the Ross Town Council offices, the Ross Library and the Larruperz Centre. All comments must be received by email or on paper at the Town Council offices by midnight on December 21st.See this week’s paper for more stories like this, available in shops and as a Digital Edition now.