Attracting a respectable 29 per cent turnout, the referendum resulted in a resounding 93 per cent (3,556) ‘Yes’ vote with just seven per cent (282) voting ‘No’ to the question: “Do you want East Hampshire District Council to use the neighbourhood plan for Alton to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”
Commenting on the result, Mike Heelis, chairman of the Alton Neighbourhood Plan steering group said he was “delighted” with the 93 per cent ‘Yes’ vote in favour of the plan.
He said: “This represents a thumping endorsement of the plan developed by volunteers in the town and provides a robust development framework for the town until 2028. The now legally enforceable policies, which will immediately be implemented by EHDC, not only define where the new housing demanded by Government must go but also provide a broad range of local planning policies.
“Important action points, which are activities that cannot be written as policies, have also been agreed for delivery by Alton Town Council.”
Mr Heelis thanked the public for their “enthusiastic support” over the last 26 months, the town council for sponsoring the plan, and EHDC for their support in bringing it to fruition.
Town and district councillor Graham Hill, who was deputy chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering group, added: “In recent months local history has been made in Alton. Firstly, after two years hard work the steering group of highly skilled and motivated Altonians has produced an excellent neighbourhood plan. This captured all the aspirations of the town expressed at several very well attended public consultations.
“Secondly, the local referendum resulted in thousands of Altonians giving the plan overwhelming support with a massive majority and thereby elevating the legal status of the plan. We should be grateful to our fellow Altonians for these two outstanding achievements which show the incredible community spirit we enjoy in Alton.
“An excellent local plan with a strong public mandate of course deserves an excellent implementation. Town council officers and councillors started some months ago in ensuring compliance with the policies and delivering the action points in the plan.”
Alton mayor Pam Jones, also a member of the neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “This is one of those occasions when I am proud to be the mayor of Alton. Alton’s special community spirit has risen again to the challenge and the result is we now have a neighbourhood plan which will legally help define our environment until at least 2028.
“An enormous vote of thanks has to go to the steering group, made up of volunteers and three councillors, under the leadership of Mike Heelis, who worked tirelessly for over two years to produce the plan – an achievement they can be justly proud of.
“Finally, a big thank you must also go to you, the people of Alton. Without your comments and support it would not have happened.”
Alton Town Council also thanked Brian Wilson Associates for their assistance to the steering group in compiling the plan.
Angela Glass, the district council’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “I am delighted to see the people of Alton have approved the neighbourhood plan.
“This plan provides EHDC’s planning team with the clear guidance we need to manage the growth and development of Alton responsibly and sustainably over the coming years.”