THE mayor of Fordingbridge says work on a neighbourhood plan is a “call of duty” for the council.

Councillor Rosemary Fulford told a meeting on June 7 that a first meeting had been held to discuss how to start a neighbourhood plan.

The neighbourhood plan document is designed to allow communities to shape the development of their local area, including what types of homes are built. A referendum of residents would then decide whether it is adopted.

Neighbourhood plans allow communities 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.

Cllr Fulford said: “We can affect things like the percentage of social and affordable housing, the design of the houses, the number they put on the site and so on. We can affect how leisure areas are included.

“We would have those powers if we can make a neighbourhood plan.”

The meeting heard that a £9,000 grant could be accessed for a neighbourhood plan.

Mayor Paul Anstey said the neighbourhood plan would be a priority for the council in view of the houses that will be built in the next decade, adding: “It is not an opportunity this, it is almost a call of duty to do this work.”

New Forest District Council is due to release its local plan for future housing developments for public consultation in the coming months.

The draft local plan has earmarked three areas around Fordingbridge for 820 homes.

Cllr Fulford added: “No council can go ahead with an application for planning without referring to that [neighbourhood plan].

“It must be considered by law except where the national thing overrides it all.”

Cllr Anstey said: “We have more busy times ahead of us.”