England's first neighbourhood planning referendum to be held: plans include more homes and development

Eden in Cumbria is to hold the country's first neighbourhood planning referendum next week.

As one of the new community rights introduced by government to give people more say over their area, neighbourhood planning allows people to put forward proposals for how they would like to see development and growth locally. Once plans have been approved in draft they are submitted to a local referendum. Eden votes on 7 March.

Planning Minister Nick Boles and Communities Minister Don Foster are meeting local residents and councillors, ahead of them deciding the outcome. They will be hearing more about the Eden proposals that include providing more homes for local people by allowing more development on farms and conversions into affordable housing, and better broadband internet connections.

Nick Boles said: 'This is an important decision for both neighbourhood planning and Eden. The area is one of the first to use neighbourhood planning to address local challenges and show other areas how they can do the same.'

Don Foster said: 'New rights the government has introduced are starting to kick in and give people a real say on how they shape their local area. The residents in Eden are the very first to vote on a neighbourhood plan and there will be many more areas following suit.'

To date nearly 400 areas have applied to formally designated their neighbourhood planning areas, the first formal step in the process and 20 draft plans have been published for consultation, before being independently examined and then put to referendum.

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