RESIDENTS in Tavistock could be asked what they want to see to improve their town by this Christmas as moves to develop a neighbourhood plan start to ramp up.

The recently-formed steering group to guide the town through the plan process aim to launch a questionnaire which will reach as many households as possible asking them for their views on what Tavistock needs or the future.

The project, given the green light by Tavistock Town Council earlier this year, will see a legally-backed plan which will help control development in the West Devon market town.

Neighbourhood plans, which are backed by the Government, are seen as critical as helping to prevent unwanted development, but Ursula Mann, chair of the steering group, said it was much more than just that.

She made it clear that while housing would be close to the top of the agenda, a new plan would also hwlp determine what other infrastructure the town needed, such as new youth facilities or other services.

Cllr Mann, also Tavistock’s deputy mayor, said the steering group would be receiving advice from representatives of towns and villages — which included Milton Abbot and Kingsbridge and Brixton in the South Hams — which were already going through the neighbourhood plan process.

But Cllr Mann said that it was also important to have the views of as many people who lived in Tavistock as possible.

When drawn up, Tavistock’s version of the plan will go before an inspector, who will not pass it unless it has the backing of as many community groups as possible.

Cllr Mann said: ‘We know there must be a lot of people in Tavistock, possibly retired, who have a lot of expertise which can help us put the plan together.

‘We want to send out the first questionnaire before Christmas, if we can, or possibly early next year, so we can get the community really interested in what is going on.

‘At the last election, we had 3,500 people out voting, which showed if they voted they care what was going on, so if we could get that many, or more, answering the questionnaire, that would be good.

‘Tavistock has a population of around 12,000 people and if we had responses from 50 per cent of that, I would say that was excellent. It’s very important that we get the community involved.’

Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area.

They are able to choose where they want new homes, shops and offices to be built, have their say on what those new buildings should look like and what infrastructure should be provided, and grant planning permission for the new buildings they want to see go ahead.

It is thought that getting the Tavistock plan approved could take up to three years, although organisers are hoping they can shorten that period. Anyone interested in getting involved with drafting the plan can do so at