We've been caught up in a sort of merry go round – though not a particularly merry one – as we've tried to establish whether a procedural piece for our Neighbourhood Plan called a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) is necessary before we can pass our plan to Hart District Council.

A European Court ruling in the summer muddled the waters and there is still no clear government guidance on the way forward – a matter which I have brought to the attention of our MP Ranil Jaywardena and our District Councillors. As a result, our application for funding for this piece of work was turned down after several weeks of waiting. So, rather than wait any longer, we asked for the costs, some £4,000, to be met by the Parish Council. I'm pleased to say they have agreed, and the assessment has now been commissioned.

Our presumptive timeline now is to put the final Plan to the Parish Council by December, so it can then go forward to Hart who will undertake another statutory consultation which will probably take eight weeks – allowing for Christmas – before passing it to an examiner.

I hesitate to say any more about what happens then because – through no fault of its own – the Steering Group has been sandbagged a number of times already and we are understandably hesitant to map the way forward any further.

Chris Farrance
Chairman, Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group