DEBATES continued over whether to produce a neighbourhood plan for Fordingbridge.

Fordingbridge Town Council agreed to set up a working group to investigate the plan further at a meeting last week.

A neighbourhood plan is designed to allow communities to shape the development of their local area. A referendum of residents then decides whether it is adopted.

Council chairman Paul Anstey said: “It is a bit of a beast, but unless we plan the neighbourhood plan together and go through all those hoops we’ll never know what the benefits could be.”

Councillor Mike Jackson said: “If you don’t do a neighbourhood plan, as Paul said earlier, we just don’t know what we might miss. I think if we start doing one, the feeling I’m getting and I’ve done a lot of research, is if we do one we have got a chance of influencing things that are happening. If we don’t do one you haven’t got a hope. I still think it is worth us pursuing it.Only good can come out of it not that much harm.”

Councillor Diane Paton said money would be saved if the council produced the plan itself.

But Councillor Anna Wilson said: “You cannot do it yourselves. You are going to have to employ someone.”

She also felt having a working party was not the right way to go about this, adding: “We need open debate in this chamber. There are too many issues not to have an open debate.”

The meeting heard other areas had reported differing experiences and some had spent £25,000 and even £40,000 on neighbourhood plans.

Cllr Wilson said: “I’m not convinced that we are not going to rattle people. This council is going to come in for some stick.”

Cllr Paton said it was important the council was not “forking out” to employ someone to produce the plan, adding: “I feel that we couldn’t justify that. If we didn’t get any benefits from it we’ve still got those costs.”

Cllr Anstey said: “If we were committing as these other people have, this £25 or £40,000 you would want a guarantee that you were getting something back for it. The only way to establish where we can go with this is to agree a working party.

Councillor Alan Lewendon said: “We have to make it clear we are starting this working party but we haven’t yet decided doing it and don’t necessarily agree with the district [local] plan.”