A referendum is to take place in Hartlepool over planning policy that could impact on the landscape of rural areas on the outskirts of the town.
Last year Hartlepool Borough Council confirmed the Hartlepool Rural Neighbourhood Plan will be subject to a referendum, which will take place on Thursday, October 4.
The question being asked is: “Do you want Hartlepool Borough Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for the Hartlepool rural area to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
The Hartlepool Rural Neighbourhood Plan sets out the vision for the area over the next 15 years and has been prepared by the Hartlepool Rural Plan Working Group.
The group was formed from representatives of the parish councils of Dalton Piercy, Elwick, Greatham, Hart and the parish meeting of Newton Bewley.
Anyone living in these areas of Hartlepool who is registered will be able to vote in the referendum.
Neighbourhood planning was introduced under the Localism Act 2011 and is intended to give local people greater ownership of plans and policies that affect their local area.
The plan from the Hartlepool working group said it should be used to consider planning applications in the area and to give residents more of a say in a bid to ‘sustain and improve’ the rural area.
It said: “We would like to see that our small communities continue to flourish where the future development of the rural area is focused on meeting the needs of the rural communities.
“Neighbourhood planning provides an opportunity for the community to have a real say over local decision making, to achieve its long-standing goals through the planning system and address the challenges and opportunities facing the future of the area.”
The report noted although many rural residents wished to see no change to the area, it was recognised that the requirement for the town of Hartlepool to continue to grow would include changes.
The vision for the group said it aims to ‘maintain and enhance the quality of life for all sections of the community and the vibrancy of the villages’ looking forward to 2031.
The estimated number of people entitled to vote in the referendum is 2,125 and eligible residents should have received polling cards last month.
Four polling stations will be open on the day for people to vote between 7am and 10pm: Greatham Community Centre, Dalton Piercy Village Hall, Elwick Women’s Institute and Hart Village Hall.
The referendum comes after independent examiner, John Slater was hired by the council to examine the rural plan and he recommended it go forward to a referendum.
The council’s regeneration services committee then approved the proposed referendum at its meeting in September last year.
In May 2011, Hartlepool was successful in securing £20,000 from Department of Communities and Local Government to develop and produce a Neighbourhood Plan for the rural area of Hartlepool.
The Rural Plan group submitted the final draft along with the associated documents to the council in August 2016, before a consultation was held.
Residents can view the referendum documents at www.hartlepool.gov.uk/ruralneighbourhoodplan or by visiting the Civic Centre in Hartlepool.
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service