CONTROVERSY surrounding the effectiveness of neighbourhood plans has surfaced as residents question their ability to stop unwanted developments.

During a recent parliamentary debate about planning Stroud MP Neil Carmichael asked Nick Boules, Minister for Planning, whether he agreed that neighbourhood plans were an ‘appropriate protector against inappropriate developments’, with which the Minister concurred.

However, residents who have been fighting an application for 150 homes in Leonard Stanley have questioned Mr Carmichael’s emphasis on neighbourhood plans which they see as ‘untried and untested’.

Leonard Stanley resident Richard Hilary said the idea that neighbourhood plans will somehow save the countryside is ‘unlikely to be the case’.

According to Mr Hilary there are many examples where Local Plans have already been successfully appealed against by developers therefore there ‘seems little chance that neighbourhood plans will survive the appeal process’.

“When the Mankley Field Action Group met Mr Carmichael a few weeks ago to enlist his support he kept referring to neighbourhood plans and how they would prevent this type of inappropriate development from happening,” said Mr Hilary.

“This is not what the group wanted to hear, they wanted specific help for their immediate problem, not some promise of supposed salvation in a few years time when it would be too late.”

A neighbourhood plan allows members of the local community to have their say in the planning process. This would include deciding where new homes and offices should be built, what they should look like and it can also be used to protect certain areas from development.

Once a neighbourhood plan is successfully adopted as a result of a community referendum it then becomes a statutory document.

Cllr Martin Whiteside (Green, Thrupp) said: "Neil Carmichael is misleading his constituents as the rules drafted by Eric Pickles make it clear that a neighbourhood plan is not sufficient to prevent a much loved green field being bulldozed and concreted."

"A neighbourhood plan is still the best way to fight inappropriate developments," said Mr Carmichael.

“Unfortunately a neighbourhood plan is not going to help residents fighting the Mankley Field application but starting the process now could protect the Stanleys and other parishes in the district from future developments,” said Mr Carmichael.

“I am opposed to the Mankley Field application as I think that it is the wrong location and the wrong scale and hopefully Stroud District Council’s planning committee will refuse it."

SDC’s development control committee is due to make a decision regarding the Mankley Field application tonight, Tuesday.

See the SNJ website for a full report tomorrow. Or follow @KateWilsonSNJ on Twitter for updates during the meeting.