Are Boris and Dave really taking a '˜back seat' role in Horncastle?

Forget about Brexit and Boris v Dave. There's another battle brewing in Horncastle which campaigners say is just as important as whether the United Kingdom stays in Europe.

New houses in Market RAsen EMN-160321-172417001
New houses in Market RAsen EMN-160321-172417001

On one side, are members of the Protect Horncastle Action Group. On the other are East Lindsey District Council and Horncastle Town Council.

At stake is the Horncastle Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP)

And, just like the UK’s continued membership of the EU, it is the public who will decide.

Next month, people living in Horncastle will be able to vote on whether the town’s very own NDP is adopted.

Supporters - notably the two above mentioned councils - argue the plan is effectively the best thing since sliced bread and offers a defence to fears the town could be swamped by up to 2,000 new homes - and twice as many new residents.

Critics - notably the Protect Horncastle Action Group - say the plan is flawed and not worth the paper it is written on. Anyone who has tried to unravel the mysteries of the document itself will tell you there’s rather a lot of paper involved.

The action group say that if the plan is adopted, the town will be swamped by homes - and people - because it offers little or no protection.

They point out schools are already full, a solitary doctor’s surgery is struggling to cope and roads are close to grid-lock. And, don’t mention drainage.

The date of the referendum is April 14.

Some people are suggesting the turn out could be in single figures.

ELDC will be hoping that is not the case. They are organising the ‘big day’ - with the help of £20,000 from central Government to cover the cost of the referendum,

A week before, the action group will hold a public meeting - designed to whip up a no vote.

The town council would no doubt love to hold a similar meeting - with a different outcome.

However, regulations effectively mean councillors cannot do or say anything that could sway the vote either way. In a word, they are ‘gagged.’

This week, there were claims one councillor had broken the rules by displaying a banner - calling for a yes vote - in his front garden.

It might not be the last time ELDC’s monitoring officer - who is responsible for ensuring a fair fight - receives a telephone call.

The action group says the plan is flawed because it does not deal with land allocation for potential development.

As a result, they claim that leaves Horncastle open to more housing, commercial and industrial development.

A spokesman said: “Due to this omission, should a “yes” vote prevail, it will be ELDC who will be allocating land within the town and outskirts; local people will not have any say or control.

“A no vote for the HNDP will get these issues debated and addressed for the long term protection of Horncastle.

“The question in the referendum will be posed as follows: ‘Do you want East Lindsey District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Horncastle to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?’

“Vote no. If the HNDP is approved then the town will be saddled with little control over these major planning issues for the next 15 years.”

Last week, the town council produced a question and answer session outlining details of the plan.

Predictably, the action group hit back, countering many of the claims.

One of the questions was - will the plan stop development?

The reply from the group? “As written at present, the answer is no.

“Examples of other plans, throughout the country, have designated areas of growth for all building and types of use.

“The HNDP intentionally excludes land allocation which if included could help shape where growth and development can take place.

“The lack of the ELDC Local Plan, which will not be published until 2017, has not helped.

“ Consequently, the ‘Vote No’ campaign recommends that the plan be delayed and a new policy added to include land allocation and site zoning.”

This is just one aspect of the debate.

It might not be Boris v Dave - or the UK v Rest of Europe for that matter - but to some local people, the plan is vitally important. But, the thousand Euro question is how many people?

As the rhetoric continues, there’s a danger ‘Joe Public’ could be turned off long before the referendum.