THE Okehampton Town and Hamlets Neighbourhood Plan has had almost 1,000 responses to its survey which was conducted earlier this year.

From mid March to the end of April, residents and business owners of Okehampton and Okehampton hamlets had the opportunity to share their thoughts on the community and how its future should be shaped through a neighbourhood plan survey.

The survey had 843 responses from residents and a further 116 business responses.

Alison Duckers, chair of the Okehampton Town and Hamlets Neighbourhood Planning Group, said: ‘The Okehampton Town and Hamlets Neighbourhood Planning Group has been encouraged by the number of responses to the survey. We have carried out some initial analysis of the responses to guide us in planning the next stage of consultation with the community.

‘The top five priority issues identified by residents are transport and traffic, development of facilities in the hamlets, town centre development, employ-ment and the local economy, a new railway for Okehampton and land use.’

Neighbourhood plans allow local people to influence where and what type of development should happen in their community, promote additional development to that set out in West Devon’s Local Plan and include policies to add locally relevant detail to higher level policies in the Local Plan.

The first stage of the process was the survey gathering information that will help shape the plan. The results of the survey will be used to create a series of community focus groups that will run over the summer.

The neighbourhood plan for Okehampton is being taken forward by Okehampton town and hamlets councils; it can establish general planning policies for the development and use of land in a neighbourhood such as where new homes and work spaces should be built and what they should look like.

Neighbourhood plans can be detailed or general, depending on the desires of local people.

However, such plans can not be used to conflict with local planning strategy. In Okehampton’s case, that means not conflicting with policies in the Local Plan developed by West Devon Borough Council. It cannot be used to block development set out in the Local Plan.

Alison Duckers said: ‘Residents of Okehampton and the hamlets will be able to join themed focus groups to contribute their views and ideas for our Neighbourhood Plan. Themes will include the priorities identified above and other topics where there are strong community views in the survey results. There will be a specific focus group for young people.

‘We will publish more details of the focus groups over the next month on our website and @okehamplan on Twitter.’

The neighbourhood plan was launched last year after Okehampton Town Council and Okehampton Hamlets Parish Council adopted a joint councils’ protocol to start the process of creating a neighbourhood plan.

The two councils have joined forces to put together the plan amidst the high levels of development planned for Okehampton in the coming years.

If you would like to get involved and participate in a focus group, email your details to okehamplan

The prize draw for survey respondents has been held. The winners, B Osborne, B Curtis and K Wayne will be presented with their cheques at the Mayor’s Coffee Morning in the Charter Hall on Saturday (July 9).