The Appleby Magna and Appleby Parva Village Design Statement (VDS) was published in 2000. It was not an Appleby Environment (at that point Appleby Heritage and Environment Movement) project as such, but members were prominent in the Village Design project and, since its publication, the Statement itself has been a key resource in responding to planning applications.
Village Design Statements were an initiative from the Countryside Commission and the Rural Community Council. The idea was to involve local people in describing what they felt was distinctive and important about their environment and what they wished to preserve.
Village Design Statements were intended to guide the quality of development through guidelines which were in line with formal planning policy and hence able to be adopted by Local Authorities as Supplementary Planning Guidance.
The process was supported by the Parish Council and involved extensive consultation with village residents. In Appleby there was agreement about the things people valued:
- Quiet lanes
- Low traffic levels
- Green spaces inside the village
- The village setting surrounded by open fields
- Its rural, historic character
The District Council accepted as a planning guideline: “the natural and historic built environment should be respected …. in order to retain Appleby’s rural character and links with the past” and adopted the VDS as part of its Local Plan Process at the time.
A initial public meeting, organised by the Parish Council, was held in April 1999 to explain the idea and to decide whether to proceed. From this individuals volunteered to be involved in running the project. Detailed research was required but also continued involvement of the wider public.
A second public meeting was held in June with speakers from the Rural Community Council and District Council Planners and to explain the next steps.
A Village Character Workshop was held on a weekend involving many more people to decide on themes, walk around the village in teams recording features and taking photographs. The teams then fed back their findings to the other groups to reach a consensus on the issues to pursue.
In August a draft was ready to present to an open meeting and then to circulate to the whole village for comments. In January 2000 the ‘final’ draft was complete from the village team but then the guidelines had to be negotiated, with the District Council and open to consultation with other bodies before it was officially adopted.
Overall there are 66 guidelines covering Village Character, Historical and Geographical Context, Economics and Demographics, Development Pressures, Landscape and Setting, Settlement, Open Spaces and Settings, The Natural Environment, The Built Environment, and Highways.
When the VDS was adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance its guidelines became principles that needed to be taken into account when deciding applications for development. But as the name suggests it was an addition to the North West Leicestershire Local Plan which itself needed to be compatible with the the Leicestershire Structure Plan and National Planning Policies.
For a number of years in the 2010s the District Council was effectively without a valid Local Plan, a situation exploited by developers. A new Local Plan covering the period 2011-2031 was finally adopted at the end of 2017. Village Design Statements have largely been superseded by a new policy instrument Neighbourhood Plans. These have to specify where a community wants development to take place and can only be accepted when they pass a local referendum. There was little enthusiasm in Appleby to follow this approach, particularly because a string of applications would undoubtedly have been determined before the Neighbourhood Plan was in place.
Nevertheless, the Appleby Magna and Appleby Parva Village Design Statement still has the status of Supplementary Planning Guidance for our District Council (NWLDC) within their current Local Plan. As such its guidelines do remain as material considerations when determining applications. Do consider quoting them if you want to comment on an application either as an objector or supporter.
The VDS also has important information about the development and character of Appleby Magna as an historic settlement. Its guidelines tell us what residents in 2000 valued about the village and their concerns about how that might be damaged. We have no reason to think that these have changed radically. As such it provides a benchmark to judge the extent to which development since that time has remained in line with those wishes.
Documents associated with the Village Design Statement project and copies of the VDS itself are lodged at the Sir John Moore Foundation local history collection. Contact the Foundation for access or for a hard copy of the VDS which provides a great introduction to the village for new residents.
A digital copy of the Village Design Statement can be downloaded here.
To learn more about the Village Design process you can download the presentation made to the first public meeting in Appleby, the one when the document was launched, and a presentation made to an Italian community who contacted us to learn more about the process.