Some 10 years after the Localism Act granted decision-making powers to parish councils to create blueprints for new housing, services or commercial developments in their area, villagers in Ingleby Arncliffe and Ingleby Cross, between Northallerton and Stokesley, have been given permission to go to the polls over a proposed Neighbourhood Plan.
Should a majority of voters back the blueprint and Hambleton Council ratify the move, it will become the district’s first Neighbourhood Plan.
The referendum, a date for which has yet to be decided, is the culmination of more than six years’ work by Ingleby Arncliffe Parish Council to give local residents the power to guide planning decisions in the area.
Other parishes in the area have set to create similar plans, but due to the number of hurdles they faced have abandoned their efforts.
A key element of the Ingleby Arncliffe blueprint would see a housing association develop smaller houses on the former village school site to enable young people to afford to live there and elderly residents wanting to downsize to remain in the area.
Coun Clive Walley, chairman of Ingleby Arncliffe Parish Council, said there had been no new housing built in the parishes since ICI developed its chemicals plant on Teesside decades ago, so the social affairs of the village were suffering.
Coun Walley said: “It is a typical story facing a lot of rural parishes where the residents have grown older and older. We want to revitalise the parish by having housing that is suitable to retain our residents within the parish, with quite a proportion of it being affordable accommodation. We have a housing mix that is so skewed towards larger properties.
“A Neighbourhood Plan would definitely help. We can’t have a situation continue where, with the exception of a chapel conversion, for the past 20 or 30 years no new houses have been built in the parish. It has got to change otherwise it will become a place for old age pensioners.
Coun Walley added creating the blueprint had been a huge undertaking over more than six years, involving a lot of learning for people with no previous experience in the subject.
He said: “If I was to give advice to any parish considering creating a Neighbourhood Plan, I would say the government provides substantial grant funds to enable parishes to get a consultant. Get a consultant and follow their advice.”
North Yorkshire County councillor for the villages Bryn Griffiths said he would encourage other parishes to follow Ingleby Arncliffe’s example.
He said: “All credit to the parish council for persevering. I think it’s a sensible approach to making sure your village grows. It is not a NIMBY thing, it is about looking for a healthy future for the village and ensuring all residents, no matter what their status, have an opportunity to live in the village.”