FOR the first time the people of Hempsted will have a voice in the future development of the area after Gloucester’s first neighbourhood forum was ratified.
The Hempsted Community Forum won the support of city councillors last week meaning the resident-led group can now prepare a blueprint for Hempsted’s future.
Steve Loughlin, chairman of the group, said: “For the first time the people who live and work in Hempsted will be able to have a large say in how the area develops in future.
“Today development in Hempsted is based on a city wide plan, and the neighbourhood plan will enhance that with a more detailed look at Hempsted. We can now start to create a plan that specifically addresses the unique characteristics of Hempsted and reflects the local communities aspiration for the area.”
The forum has started to survey residents and businesses about what they like about the area and what they think can be improved.
Every household and business is being contacted for their views. This is going on throughout March, after which the group will have a full understanding of what people want the neighbourhood plan to focus on.
Mr Loughlin said that the village had come under pressure from new development in recent years. He said: “In the last 10 years the number of properties in Hempsted has nearly doubled. This has placed considerable pressure on the infrastructure and there is already planning permission in place for over 500 more. Greenfield sites have also been identified for hundreds more properties in the next few years.
“The local economy has opportunities for growth too. The area around Netheridge Farm and the Hempsted Meadows is a regeneration opportunity for the city as a whole, not just Hempsted.
“Last Sunday there was a rowing regatta on the canal and market on at the same time, which packed out Hempsted Meadows with visitors in the sunshine. It demonstrated the potential of the area to attract visitors into the city.
“This is a great opportunity to create a plan that will improve the quality of life for all in Hempsted.”
The task force will also look at Hempsted’s heritage and flooding issues.
The group’s formation comes after a rocky start after some residents objected to the plan, saying they had not been consulted. But city councillor Mary Smith (L, Robinswood) said: “Everyone needs to work together and put their differences aside. Just get on with it and hopefully it will be a successful group.”
All but two city councillors on the planning committee – Lise Noakes (C, Barnwood) and Phil McLellan (LD, Barnwood) – approved the plans.
Councillor Andy Lewis (C, Quedgeley Fieldcourt) had words of advice for the group. He said: “There’s bound to be some teething problems and not everyone will be happy, but just do your utmost and keep going with it.”
The group’s formation could spur on other areas to form neighbourhood plans.