Everything you need to know about the planning referendum in Whittlesey this month

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Register to vote by 7 February

A referendum that could change which planning applications are approved in Whittlesey is fast approaching, with poll cards sent out and the window for registering to vote closing on 7 February.

On 23 February, residents of the Cambridgeshire town will be asked to vote 'Yes' or 'No' in response to the question: “Do you want Fenland District Council to use the Neighbourhood Plan for Whittlesey to help it decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area?”

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Clearly, in order to comprehend this question – let alone answer it – some context is needed.

Polling station sign outside the entrance to a political voting location in UK.Polling station sign outside the entrance to a political voting location in UK.
Polling station sign outside the entrance to a political voting location in UK.
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First, the Neighbourhood Plan:

This 57-page document prepared by Whittlesey Town Council (WTC) lays out 11 planning policies it would like to see implemented as well as information about how and why they were chosen.

In short, they are:

- Most new housing developments should be built east of Whittlesey and not in open countryside and should minimise flooding risks

- On-site affordable and accessible housing should be included in new development proposals

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- Shops should be built in town centres and other businesses shouldn't replace shop frontages in these areas

- Public open spaces shouldn't be built on unless developers can replace them

- There are certain green spaces, such as Whittlesey Town Bowls Club and the New Road Lattersey Nature Reserve, that shouldn't be built on

- Proposals for a new Country Park are welcome

- Designs for new developments should respect the character of the local area

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- Whittlesey and Eastrea’s historic Mud Walls shouldn't be harmed

- The distinct separations between Eastrea and Coates and Eastrea and Whittlesey should be respected

- Sustainable transport should be encouraged where possible

- Buildings should be sustainable, enhance the environment and include electric vehicle charging in car parks

These policies (which can be read in full here) are aimed at developers interested in building in Whittlesey and those responsible for approving their plans up until 2040.

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They are not the only policies they will have to consider, though, as there are more national and regional planning rules that apply - although these were taken into consideration in the creation of the Neighbourhood Plan.

You can vote in the referendum if you’re 18 or older, registered to vote in local elections, and live in the "neighbourhood area" of Whittlesey, Coates, Eastrea, Pondersbridge, Turves or the settlements at Kings Dyke and Kings Delph (an exact boundary map can be found here).

If you intend to do so, be aware of these important dates:

- 7th Feb: Deadline for registering to vote

- 8th Feb: Deadline for making postal voting arrangements (5pm)

- 15th Feb: Deadline for applying to vote by proxy (5pm)

- 17th Feb: First date to replace lost postal votes

- 23rd Feb: Polling day (7am-10pm)

More information on how to vote by post, proxy or emergency proxy can be found here.

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Fenland District Council (FDC) says that it has calculated that there are 13,722 people eligible to vote.

It has also set the expenses limit on the poll, at £3,171.60.

The referendum has been several years in the making, with a questionnaire on issues in the area mailed to residents by WTC in March 2017, followed by policy workshops in February 2018.

A draft plan was then developed, which underwent consultation in summer 2021 before being submitted to FDC in June 2022.

The plan then underwent further consultation and independent examination before finally being approved by FDC to go to referendum.

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