Villages on the west side of York are gearing up for an important referendum later this month. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

PUT the date in your diary. August 23. Referendum Day.

OK, so the vote in Poppleton on whether the people of the two villages - Upper and Nether Poppleton - should adopt their neighbourhood plan won't be quite on the scale of the Scottish independence vote or the referendum on whether to leave the EU.

But for the people of York it promises to be very significant nonetheless.

Three years of work have gone into producing the plan. And, if the vote goes the right way on August 23 and it is adopted, it will help determine the way new homes, businesses, play areas and open spaces are developed in the Poppletons over the next 20 years.

More than that. It will help to set a precedent for the rest of York. Because the Poppleton plan is just one of 14 neighbourhood plans that are being developed across the city (see panel below). It is the first to have reached the stage of being put to a public vote. But the eyes of much of the city will be upon these two quiet villages on August 23.

York Press:

Aerial view: old Poppleton and the church of St Everilda's

The neighbourhood plans are being drawn up in response to the 2011 Localism Act. The aim of this, says Poppleton resident and former city councillor and Lord Mayor Janet Hopton, was to "empower communities to better shape their places: to choose where they want new houses to be built and what these new buildings should look like, and to have a say on measures to protect the landscape and character of the community."

Those aren't just words. The draft Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan has been a real exercise in people power, says Mrs Hopton.

It has been put together by a team of local volunteers, with the support of the two parish councils of Nether and Upper Poppleton. But just about everybody in the two villages has been consulted in one way or another over the last three years - residents, businesses, landowners and developers alike. A questionnaire sent out to almost 2,000 homes in the villages asking for input received 700 responses - a sure sign of just how involved the people of Poppleton have been. Statutory bodies such as Historic England, Natural England and the Environment Agency have also been consulted.

The resulting plan runs to more than 60 detailed pages, with a host of supporting documents to back it up. There's even a report by an independent examiner, who had to assess the plan and and certify that it was ready to be put to a public vote.

York Press:

Janet Hopton with Allen Jones of the Poppleton Community Trust at Popleton Station

It identifies sites for possible new housing developments; looks at the potential for further development of the three existing business parks; and suggests how the number of school places could be increased. There are sections on conservation areas, green belt, the village boundaries, community facilities, the environment and renewable energy, all backed up by detailed maps, statistics and carefully-martialled evidence 9 (see panel).

But how much weight will the plan have when planners come to actually consider planning applications in the area?

Quite a lot, says local city councillor Chris Steward.

The aim of the 2011 Localism Act really was to give local people more say in the way their communities developed. So unlike the toothless village design statements which preceded them, neighbourhood plans have real weight. "They do have a legal footing," Cllr Steward says.

In York, they'll be especially important because the city, despite many years of trying, still doesn't have a local plan in place.

"If you have a local plan, then the neighbourhood plan has to be in accordance with that," Cllr Steward says. "But where there is no local plan, the neighbourhood plan can set precedents."

So for the people of Poppleton, the vote on August 23 really matters. There will be polling stations, ballot boxes and even postal votes, just like in council or general elections. If there is a simple majority of votes cast which are in favour of the plan being adopted, it will become an official part of the development plan for the west of York, and will be used to help decide planning applications.

But if the vote goes against, it will be back to the drawing board - or at least, back to an earlier stage of the plan, and a serious rethink.

The signs are that that probably won't happen. Around the country, something like 300 Neighbourhood Plans have already gone through this process. "And I think they all passed," says Cllr Steward.

You can never take anything for granted where a public vote is concerned, of course. Everyone in the two villages who is on the register of electors will be eligible to vote on August 23. Given the extent of community involvement in the putting together of the plan, it would be a big surprise if it was rejected. But those working on neighbourhood plans elsewhere in the city will be watching with great interest...


York Press:

Poppleton from the air: the narrow strip of green belt that divides Poppleton from York at its narrowest point

The plan covers everything from transport, housing, employment and education to community facilities and even the nature of the green belt.

You can read the plan for yourself at - simply type Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan into the search box.

But here are some of the highlights...


There are limited opportunities for significant housing development within the villages, the neighbourhood plan points out. However, it identifies a number of potential sites, among them the former British Sugar site, Longridge Lane, the former Civil Service site and the Wyevale Garden Centre.

"Total housing numbers over the Neighbourhood Plan timescale (the next 20 years) will be in the region of 600 houses within the parish boundary with a further 900 immediately at the former British Sugar site," the plan says.

Proposals for the British Sugar Site development will be supported, the plan says - provided they include a mix of housing types, decent sports and recreational facilities, and a main access road off the Boroughbridge Road.

Within the parish, one site with housing potential is at Blairgowrie, in the conservation area at Main Street, Upper Poppleton. This provides a wildlife sanctuary and forms part of a green corridor linking fields to one of the village greens, the plan says. Nevertheless, proposals to redevelop existing buildings on the site will be supported, the plan says, providing the appearance of the conservation area is not damaged, replacement buildings are of a similar scale to those being replaced, and trees and landscaping are protected.


There are three business parks in the area covered by the plan - Northminster Business Park, Millfield Lane, and York Business Park.

The plan says that "proposals for new business development on established business parks... will be supported where they provide car parking for staff and customers." There is also potential for some land on business parks to be used for housing, the plan adds. York Business Park, which opened in 2000, is next to a new housing development, Poppleton Park. There is potential to expand the park either for more businesses space or housing, the plan says. "There is onsite shop/ petrol station, recreational facilities, a good cycle network and a recently completed care facility for the elderly. Currently the City of York has not designated the York Business Park brownfield for anything other than employment. The change of use to... residential land would be supported by the Parish Council if a suitable proposal came forward."


Manor Academy has 1023 students, although it was only designed for 1000, the plan notes. "It is envisaged over the life of this Neighbourhood Plan that there will be a requirement for more places, and expansion of the current school buildings."

Since there are proposals for 1140 new homes on the British Sugar site, there will also need to be a new primary school, the plan notes. "If this could be developed in close partnership with and in proximity to the Academy (Manor), it would be a sustainable model of educational development for a prolonged period."

Community facilities

The villages have a good selection of clubs and other amenities, the plan notes - including two village halls, a community centre and the Tithe Barn. Nevertheless, it says that land to the north of the Poppleton Tigers football ground on Millfield Lane should be 'reserved for development as a recreational open space'. Land next to the community centre, meanwhile, should be reserved for development as a play area.


The Poppleton Neighbourhood Plan is one of 14 that are being developed by community groups across the City of York Council area.

The other areas in the process of developing neighbourhood plans are:

To find out how the neighbourhood plan in your area is progressing, visit