Villagers in Northumberland have become the first in the region to have a plan for their own future given the stamp of approval.
Allendale is one of only 17 communities across the country tasked as part of a government pilot scheme to draw up a “local plan” for building and development.
Now an independent examiner has endorsed the proposals - though residents of the village must still give them the greenlight when they are put to a referendum if they are to become part of the county’s planning process.
“This is excellent news,” said councillor Colin Horncastle.
“When the Allendale neighbourhood plan is formally adopted it will mean that for the first time planning applications in the parish will be decided against policies that the local community have helped draw up.
“Everything from new house building, affordable housing, business accommodation, working from home, conversions, tourist facilities and playing field protection will all be guided by the views of the local community.
“I would like to thank everyone who has helped over the last three years for their time and input.
“It has been a long process but the Allendale Frontrunner scheme has been used by many other communities in Northumberland as a blueprint for their own plans, which has been a positive spin off and has saved them valuable time.”
The pilot scheme was introduced after legislation came into force in 2011 which allows local communities to prepare their own plans to guide development in their area.
Allendale Parish Council was one of 17 communities nationwide chosen by the government to be a neighbourhood planning “front runner.”
A steering group was set up to lead the plan-making process in October 2011, chaired by councillor Horncastle and comprised of representatives of the parish council and other interested parties including Sustainable Allendale.
The group was supported by county council officers who provided technical support, background research and assisted in writing the draft version of the plan.
Local people were involved in the project from the outset and they helped guide and shape the policies in the plan.
The draft was then shown to an independent examiner, who confirmed that it satisfies all government requirements, making Allendale the first community in the North East to be given such approval.
The plan will now be put to a referendum in the Allendale parish during the early part of this year – before it can be confirmed as the first agreed neighbourhood plan in the region.
If the majority of Allendale residents vote in favour of the plan it will form part of the county council’s development plan.
Jan Simmonds, chair of the parish council, said that though its members had not been “particularly enthusiastic” to take part at first, they were pleased to have passed another hurdle.
“A lot of hard work has gone into considering all the information and feedback from the local community during this process,” she said.
“Allendale is in one of our loveliest areas of the country that is really quite unspoilt.
“All people who live here, whilst wanting a modest amount of development to keep the community lively and vibrant, particularly want to keep the views that we all love and enjoy.
“Passing independent examination is a major milestone for the steering group and we now look forward to the referendum during 2015.”
Minister for communities Stephen Williams congratulated the village.
“It’s great to see a group that benefited from the government’s neighbourhood planning support programme reach the final stages of the process.
“Our recent announcement of a 50% increase in neighbourhood planning support funding for the next three years will help even more communities come together to prepare a plan that will help shape the future of the area.”
The Allendale plan and accompanying documents can be viewed on the county council’s website at northumberland.gov.uk/ourplan