Linton residents vote for plan to take control of village

Jill Bolton has chaired the drafting committee for the last three and a half years
Jill Bolton has chaired the drafting committee for the last three and a half years

The people of Linton have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a plan to take control of their village in a ground-breaking referendum.

Ninety-five per cent of residents voted for the Linton neighbourhood plan (LNP) to be submitted to Leeds City Council (LCC) in the first referendum for the borough,

In a bid to give power back to local communities, the Localism Act allows towns and villages across the UK to draw up a plan of things they would like to change or keep the same in their area.

But after LCC said the borough would get 5,000 new homes, the area has become a hotspot for communities who want to submit a plan.

More than 35 communities in the borough have shown interest in creating a neighbourhood plan to outline the wishes of residents. Jill Bolton, Linton resident and chairman of the LNP drafting committee, has been working towards this stage for three-and-a-half years.

She said: “When we took the decision to prepare the plan we thought we would be finished in six months, so I wouldn’t consider that we have got here quickly but because our plan is quite simple when you look at more complex communities with shops, businesses, schools, medical centres, our plan was always going to be a lot easier to get to this stage.

“It is quite a relief to have got through the referendum and nailed it. This is the first one for Leeds so this has been a steep learning curve not only for us but for Leeds city planners.”

For Linton, this largely meant conserving green spaces and protecting the historic character of the village.

One of the most ground- breaking policies of the LNP was to ensure that prospective developers consult villagers on any planning application for more than one house.

Other policies protected the village facilities, outlined improvements to foot and cycle paths, and support for broadband to the area.

With more than 270 voters turning out for the referendum, Ms Bolton said she was delighted with both the result and the turn out.

She said: “I was absolutely delighted, I was more pleased about the fact we had got a 48 per cent turn-out because it’s really hard to get the message to people that they need to vote.

“It’s really important to put the cross on the ballot paper but I’m over the moon with the result.”

For Alec Shelbrooke MP, the referendum highlighted a return of power to local people and set a president for other communities in his constituency.

He said: “I’m delighted because of course it sets the model for all the other villages following. They have a powerful document in their possession to support them and it means a lot of other villages can see what they have done.

“The whole point of the neighbourhood plan is that it puts the power in the hands of the voters. What is vital about this is that it’s local people having their say on the development of their village.”