Neighbours’ plan heads to a public vote

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People in a deprived part of Preston are to get a say on their own future, with a referendum on plans to improve the community.

Councillors voted unanimously on Thursday to agree minor changes to the Inner East Preston Neighbourhood Plan, devised by the Friends of Fishwick and St Matthew’s.

The blueprint of ideas is designed to tackle deprivation and boost job and community opportunities in the area.

Residents will vote on it next year and, if approved, it will be adopted by Preston Council to help determine development in the area.

A report on the plan from an independent examiner said: “The Friends of Fishwick and St Matthew’s recognise that the neighbourhood plan will not solve all of the problems that face residents in the area.

“The plan demonstrates, however, the clear vision and aspiration of the community to improve both the physical environment and the life chances of the residents.”

After the meeting, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, who is vice-chairman of the friends group, said: “It’s brilliant to see the council supporting the Friends of Fishwick and St Matthew’s and their plans and we are now moving on to the referendum in February.

“It’s a massive thing for a community group to do from start to finish, to wade through planning legislation and put this plan together and have it approved by an independent examiner and approved by the council, and now we are going to go to the people of Fishwick and St Matthew’s and ask them to support it.

“If they vote yes, it will be a legal planning document that people will take notice of. It will protect community venues, the shopping areas from losing too many shops, and green space.

“We’re trying to address the basic issues in the area – jobs, the environment, and making the area look better.”

Deputy leader Coun John Swindells said: “Huge thanks should be given to the Friends of Fishwick and St Matthew’s.

“It’s one of the first urban plans in the country to move forward to adoption and it is the first in Lancashire.”