Planning Reforms put the:- "Power back into the hands of local
for Communities and Local Government by Regional News Network North
East's Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis said that:-
"We're helping people take control of their neighbourhood."
This move will also affect us all in England. The New Year is
according to them will be:- "bring new powers to make it
quicker and easier for communities to create their own neighbourhood
plan." More than 5.2 million people live in one of the 1,274
areas across England where the community is working together to
create a neighbourhood plan. But agreeing an area for a
neighbourhood plan to cover takes an average of 19 weeks. "The
new measures will cut weeks off this process; encouraging even more
communities to have a greater say over the future development of
their area. Making it easier for residents to take control of their
neighbourhood. More than 160 communities have been consulted on
draft neighbourhood plans with 31 plans now in force and used for
determining planning applications." they explained in a
press release sent to us this week.
It explained that
these frontrunners include:-
► Arundel, whose neighbourhood plan approves proposals to turn
disused buildings into office space, and supports the development of
business within the built up area boundary of the market Town. The
plan also encourages the use and development of "Live Work
Units" that are especially suited to small businesses in the
arts and cultural sectors, which are common to Arundel.
► Cringleford, Norfolk, where the community has identified priority
projects that the parish Council will fund using community
infrastructure levy money. These include playing fields and changing
facilities, an extension to the community centre, new allotments and
a community orchard. In areas where the community infrastructure
levy has been adopted, communities with a neighbourhood plan in
place will benefit from 25% of the levy revenues arising from the
development that takes place in their area.
► Woodcote in the Chilterns, where in previous surveys of residents
around 70% of respondents regularly said:- "no" to any
new housing in the village. Earlier this year, 91% of residents
voted:- "yes" at referendum to a neighbourhood plan
allocating land for 76 homes across five sites.
► The Thame, Oxfordshire, neighbourhood plan which allocates 770 new
homes to 6 sites dispersed around the Oxfordshire market Town,
departing from the local planning authority's proposal to put almost
all of the housing on one site on the edge of Thame. The plan also
sets out what infrastructure (such as roads, schools and community
facilities) are needed to make development acceptable.
► Exeter St. James Forum which has produced a successful
neighbourhood plan and created a community trust to deliver the
projects identified in the plan. Their first successful project was
the regeneration of the Queen's Crescent Gardens, and new projects
include the development of sustainable homes, improving allotments
and heritage walks in a neighbourhood close to the centre of Exeter.
► Felpham's neighbourhood plan, which protects 8 areas of local
green space in the Sussex seaside village. The spaces have been
identified for their environmental, recreational, or historic
significance to the community, and no development will be permitted
on them except in very special circumstances.
January, the changes will enable even more communities to follow in
their footsteps; Councils will have just 13 weeks to consider a
community's application to create a neighbourhood area. This
timeframe is reduced to 8 weeks where the neighbourhood area follows
a parish boundary, and where applications cover an area straddling
more than one planning authority the period for consideration will
be extended to 20 weeks. But the Government is also clarifying the
information that must be submitted with the neighbourhood plan. This
will ensure independent examiners have sufficient information to
assess the plan's environmental effect." they added.
Housing Minister Brandon Lewis also commented that:- "We're
seeing a genuine neighbourhood planning movement with communities in
almost two-thirds of local authorities already using these powers to
shape what gets built where in their local area. This means more
than 5,000,000 people now live in a neighbourhood planning area and
so far there have been some great proposals from renovating disused
building to creating new community orchards and playing fields. Now
I want to go further and see more communities making the most of the
powers we've put in their hands. Today's measures will speed up the
process, making it quicker and easier to get a neighbourhood plan
together so that the views of local people are written clearly in
black and white for developers and Councils to see, and ensure that
future development in those areas delivers the homes communities
themselves want to see. And I want to look at what more can be done
to speed up the neighbourhood planning process through further
consultation with communities."
Now that the government has published its response on Neighbourhood
Planning measures in the 2014 technical consultation on planning.
This posed questions about how to make it easier for residents and
business to come together to produce a neighbourhood plan or a
neighbourhood development order.
Deputy Prime Minister calling for on people to nominate unsung
'Mental Health Heroes'
THE Deputy Prime Minister is
calling on people to nominate unsung 'Mental Health Heroes'
in their local area as part of his campaign to raise
awareness of mental health problems. 1 in 3 people will
experience a mental health problem this year, but for many the
stigma and discrimination that surrounds mental health will make it
harder for them to speak out and seek the support they need.
That's why the Deputy Prime Minister is calling for nominations for
local 'Mental Health Heroes' to celebrate those from
every region; from healthcare professionals to next door neighbours;
who have gone above and beyond to help, support or inspire people
with mental health conditions. Deputy Prime Minister Nick
Clegg said:- "It could be the woman sitting next to you on the
bus, the dad picking his child up at the school gates or a colleague
from work; everyone knows someone living with a mental health
problem. I want to celebrate those who have gone that extra mile,
whose passion and commitment have helped someone get through their
darkest days and helped challenge the taboo around mental health
which has existed for far too long. It is my ambition to bring
mental health out of the shadows and create a fairer society where
people can speak up about how they feel and get the support and
treatment they need to live the life that they choose."
To nominate someone, go to:-
Gov.UK/DPM and follow the links
to the nomination form. The winning nominees will be invited to a
ceremony in London on Thursday, 5 February 2015, which will mark
Time to Change's 'Time to Talk Day' to encourage
people to speak out about mental health and spread the message that
mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Norman Lamb, Care and
Support Minister, said:- "Mental illness touches us all and,
everyday, people in our communities are doing amazing things to
improve the lives of those affected. We want to recognise and reward
them. I am determined to end discrimination faced by people with
mental illness, which us why we're continuing to fund Time to Change
and support Time to Talk Day. Everyone has a part to play in
tackling stigma and this is an important opportunity to start the
conversations that will make lasting change." The
awards are part of the Deputy Prime Minister's on going work to
bring awareness and treatment for of mental health in line with
physical health. In Government he has helped build a strong
foundation for the improvement of mental health services, securing:-
► The UK's 1st Mental Health Taskforce to combine the efforts and
resources of ministers from across the Coalition.
► £400m investment expanding talking therapies.
► £150m investment in treatment and support for children and young
adults with eating disorders.
► £120m investment in mental health to
include the introduction in April 2015 of the 1st ever waiting time
standards for mental health in the NHS.
► £54m for the Children and Young People's Improving Access to
Psychological Therapies programme.
► £7m investment to fund 50 new inpatient beds for children and
If you would like to nominate someone for the Deputy Prime
Minister's Local Mental Health Hero Award, here's how you can do it
a via completing the nomination form
online. The closing
date for applications is Tuesday, 27 January 2015.
Optometrist swaps Birkenhead for African experience
A Wirral optometrist who has been
volunteering at a Malawi hospital for the past 3 months has spoken
of the challenges he is seeing. James McNeely, who ordinarily
works at Specsavers in Pyramids Shopping Centre, Birkenhead, has
swapped the UK winter for the stifling heat of Africa where he is
volunteering in a City hospital.
The optometrist has taken a year's leave from his role at the
Birkenhead Specsavers and, together with his girlfriend, the pair
are currently working at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the African
country of Malawi where they are facing very different challenges
Battling regular power cuts, water shortages, daily 32 degree
temperatures and an underfunded hospital that serves over 4,000,000
people, has certainly given both of them a new perspective on their
lives and jobs on the Wirral.
James, aged 29, said:- "It has
definitely made me appreciate what we have so much more. The
hospital is very limited in resources and the Government funding is
limited and topped up by EU countries. It has really made me
acknowledge how good our NHS is."
James normally lives in Wavertree, Liverpool, with girlfriend Dr
Rachel Tildesley, but the couple are now staying in accommodation
provided by a friend who is the cousin of 1 of James' African
The environment has been challenging for both of them since they
arrived in September, leaving a cool autumnal Wirral for a hot and
James said:- "We're in the rainy season now but it is still
just as hot, even at night, so now it's quite humid too. The air
conditioning is always breaking so it is quite tough but you do get
used to it after a while."
Rachel, aged 31, has taken leave from her job at Arrowe Park
Hospital, where she works as an Obstetric and Gynaecology Registrar.
Along with the consultants and midwives at Arrowe Park she is
helping to setup up a longstanding partnership between the 2 units
at the different hospitals.
James said:- "It is a bit of a mix. Some days we have people
presenting with the same sort of things we would see in Specsavers
every day and then another day I'll see in 1 day the range of things
I would see in a year in Birkenhead. There is a different mentality
here too. People don't go to the hospital automatically so you have
people with an eye infection that could have been cleared up if
they'd come in straight away, but they wait a month and then come by
which time you end up having to remove an eye. That can be really
hard, especially when it's a child. A lot of patients are HIV
positive too which makes it harder again. We have one woman on the
ward who has been here 6 months, but she lives so far away that it
would be really difficult for her to come back so we need to know
she is absolutely fine before she goes home."
It is a far cry from Specsavers in Pyramids Shopping Centre, which
is home to the latest technology and techniques to look after
customer eye health, but James is in regular contact with his former
colleagues who have even sent parcels of much needed equipment over
to him in Africa. He said:- "They've been great and very
supportive of me. My job is there for me when we get back and
they've been sending all sorts over, even simple things like bulbs
that would take us weeks to get."
Ken Roberts, who is a partner in both the Specsavers stores in both
Birkenhead and the Cherry Tree Centre in Wallasey, said:- "We
are very proud of what James is achieving in Malawi and are all for
helping our team to develop their skills and experiences. While the
conditions out in Malawi are very different from James' usual
workplace with us, I feel sure he will learn so much while he is
there which can only benefit our business and the high service we
strive to provide for our customers. It has been fascinating to hear
of the challenges which James and his girlfriend Rachel have been
facing and we will continue to support them in anyway we can."
James and Rachel are about halfway
through their 8 month stint at the hospital, after which they plan
to travel together for 4 months before returning to their lives and
jobs back home.
James said:- "It has been a good experience for us. Obviously
it is quite challenging at times, but the Malawians are lovely. They
are such a kind and friendly community and they would give you
everything they have, even when they really have nothing. I think it
will be good for our careers and make us much better medics all
round, as well as much more rounded as people."
For an eye test, your new pair of
glasses or advice on eye health visits Specsavers Opticians in
Pyramids Shopping Centre, Birkenhead, (0151 650 1666) or the Cherry
Tree Centre in Wallasey, (0151638 3341) or visit:-