On December 3rd the Parish Council approved the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan and accompanying documents. This means it is essentially ready now to go forward to Hart District Council for the next stage of the process although there is a possibility there might need to be a review of the accompanying documentation – rather than the thrust of the Plan in light of legislative changes due to be announced at the end of December.

Nonetheless, this is a rare moment and well-earned thanks are due to past and present members of the Steering Group, our consultants, the Parish Council and those members of the community who have engaged with us throughout our long journey.

Let me just remind you that the purpose of the Plan is to sit alongside the Hart Local Plan to guide development and provide direction to any interested parties wishing to submit planning applications for development within the parish.

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.

We are proceeding with the Parish Council’s approval, on the assumption that the flood risk applying to Pools Yard and Nero Brewery will be satisfactorily resolved ahead of formal submission of our Plan for examination.

Those of you who are familiar with the trials and tribulations we have faced getting to this stage, will not be surprised to learn that there is now another fly in the ointment. As a result of a recent EU court judgement, we are now required to carry out a Habitat Environmental Assessment despite having successfully by-passed it – legitimately of course – at the Regulation 14 consultation stage.