ALTON residents are being asked to vote for a plan that will shape the town for the next decade and beyond.

The town will go to the polls next Wednesday to vote in a referendum to determine whether or not to adopt the Alton Neighbourhood Plan.

The plan will be used to guide planning decisions taken by East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) and will play an important part in guiding the town’s evolution over the coming years.

Residents will be asked 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?”

A neighbourhood plan is a new approach to planning, giving residents the decision on where future housing, business and community-related developments should go.

The Alton Neighbourhood Plan covers all aspects of development in the town, including policies on transport, housing, health, education, community, economic sustainability and viability, and voting in the referendum will give residents the chance to decide what kind of town they want Alton to be.

The referendum will be run by East Hampshire District Council’s elections team.

Alton Town Council has prepared a ‘brief guide to the neighbourhood plan’ document to give residents a factual overview of the full document and detailing the implications for Alton should the plan be approved or rejected.

In addition, The Alton Society has produced an explanatory leaflet which is urging residents to “use your vote wisely!”. It too has clear reasons what a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote would mean.

A ‘yes’ vote, according to the Society, would help protect 13 green spaces from future development and the town from even more housing. If a developer has been refused permission because the site is not included in the neighbourhood plan, they will be “wasting their time” going to appeal. And the town’s views on health, education and traffic will be considered by local authorities when they make decisions in the future.

A ‘no’ vote would mean EHDC will decide the amount of housing Alton gets. Developers may have an incentive to lodge even more applications, and with no plan a developer could find it easier to get a refusal overturned at appeal. As an example, according to a Society spokesman, the 120 houses proposed at Highmead House on the New Odiham Road may have been allowed. In addition, the town council will get less money for the community from developers.

The Alton Society leaflets can be picked up in community buildings and from the Alton Herald office in Market Square.

There is a final neighbourhood plan drop-in public information session prior to the referendum at Alton Assembly Rooms next Monday, February 22, from 3pm-8pm.