The Localism Act of 2011 gave local communities without a Parish Council the right to form a Neighbourhood Planning Forum which could "help to shape and plan their neighbourhood. Development once agreed cannot be stopped, but by working with the local council and residents Neighbourhood Planning Forums can design development to the benefit of the community by producing a Neighbourhood Plan (NP)."
When the City’s Site Allocation Plan was published in the summer of 2013 Garforth had been placed in the Outer South East Housing Market Area of the city and had been allocated a target of a further 3,543 housing units. Most of the sites identified for possible development were in the green belt surrounding Garforth.
A group of residents became aware of these proposals. A meeting was arranged with a local councillor who explained the Localism Act and the opportunity to form a Neighbourhood Planning Forum. A decision was taken to progress the formation of a Neighbourhood Planning Forum. With two weeks remaining of the consultation period, over 3,000 comments were submitted by local residents.
The inaugural meeting was held in January 2014 chaired by Ian MacKay (LCC NP team) and the process of applying for ‘designation’ status and the neighbourhood plan area was explained.
Following the first AGM in September 2014 Garforth residents signed up to sub groups looking at the issues and concerns expressed during the initial consultations with the public. These were: housing sites, healthcare, education, leisure and greenspace, traffic congestion and transport, retail and employment. The already established flood group was invited to participate.
The Garforth Neighbourhood Planning Forum was granted ‘designated’ status in November 2014.
Since then the Forum has met regularly with a number of sub-groups taking responsibility for different tasks. The Working Group gathers the evidence and data required to support the Plan. The Writing Group is tasked with producing the Plan. The Steering Group oversees the direction of the whole process.
Technical support was initially provided by 2 planning consultants. However, over the last 2 years invaluable support has been provided by LCC officers responsible for Neighbourhood Planning.
In order to gain the views of locals a number of consultations and surveys have taken place since 2014.
The main surveys carried out were housing needs, retail, car parking, estate agents and local industries. The results of all the surveys are available on the Plan website. http://www.garforthplan.co.uk
In addition, consultations have been carried out on a number of occasions – at Garforth Gala, at events on Main Street, at AGMs and other meetings. A noticeboard in Garforth Library provides regular updates and information on current issues.
Following the work initially with the consultants and subsequently with LCC, the Writing Group began working on a Vision and Objectives for the Neighbourhood Plan in early 2016.