Abingdon’s Neighbourhood Plan is being prepared on behalf of all who live and work in here. When finalised, it will set out a vision for our town over the next ten to fifteen years building on peoples’ hopes and everyday experiences. Importantly once we have agreed that it should be adopted, at a local referendum probably in 2023, the local planning authority will have to take it into account as it considers planning applications and associated matters across Abingdon.
Although the Neighbourhood Plan is an initiative of Abingdon-on-Thames Town Council it is being put together by a steering group of volunteers. This steering group is being assisted by Feria Urbanism, an urban design and planning practice based in Bournemouth, with deep experience of supporting the creation of neighbourhood plans in other towns like ours.
Work on our Neighbourhood Plan started last year with groups of socially distanced people undertaking a detailed examination of their immediate neighbourhoods, looking at where they live through five lenses: Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Culture and Engineering. A series of late winter interactive virtual focus groups allowed participants to share their own thoughts and ideas on a range of topics including Families, a Greener Abingdon, Heritage, Business and the Town Centre Economy, Culture and Sports and Leisure. And over the Easter holidays children from our local primary schools completed worksheets that enabled them to contribute to the plan too. All this information was plotted on a map and informed the creation of a draft issues, options and ideas report.
A key suggestion of the report was for a trail that would better connect the town centre with the river, and the possible role of the Upper Reaches site as a destination at the riverside end of the route in making this happen. An integrated approach could enhance recreational and cultural opportunities by creating a riverside hub, comprising housing, workshops and performance spaces in a new riverside quarter.
Further ideas emerged from outreach sessions that were held over the summer including better provision of cycle friendly routes into and around the town, ‘lido-ising’ the open air swimming pool and repurposing the multi-story car park as our travel becomes less private car focussed. All who took part noted the difficulties of mixing pedestrian, cycle and motor traffic in the town centre, but no magic bullet to solve this perennial problem has yet been identified!
In parallel, over the summer, task groups have worked on issues such as green spaces, neighbourhood identity, the town centre and culture to provide further input. This will be reflected in a draft report that will be open to public consultation after Christmas. When finished the plan will set out a range of potential planning policies, priorities and capital projects. These will have one aim – to make our future town a great place for people of all ages to live in and grow in a way that is environmentally sustainable, vibrant, resilient, and safe.
Do come along to the outreach event planned for 20th to 22nd January in the Roysse Room of the Guildhall to find out more and share your views.
The more of us that join in, the better the Neighbourhood Plan will be and the closer we’ll get to my own aspiration for it, which is to make an even better Abingdon for generations yet to come.
Abingdon Neighbourhood Plan steering group