The final version of the Kenilworth Neighbourhood Plan has been formally approved by Kenilworth Town Council.
At a special meeting held yesterday evening (Thursday March 15), town councillors unanimously voted to send the plan off to Warwick District Council for approval.
If the district council accepts the plan, it will then be sent to an independent inspector for approval. After this, the plan will be put to residents in a yes or no referendum.
If adopted, the Neighbourhood Plan will help shape development in the town for years to come, alongside the recently adopted Local Plan.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr George Illingworth (Con, Abbey), chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan Working Party, praised all of those who had worked on the plan, which had been in the making for more than four years.
Cllr Illingworth said: "It's been a long haul, hasn't it? Some of us have stuck this out with tremendous stamina.
"Together, we've got to a stage at which I think is very important for the future of our town."
Cllr Illingworth talked about the lengthy consultation progress after the first draft of the plan, which was published in May 2017.
He said it caused 'quite a stir' among residents, many of whom took issue with much of the housing coming to Kenilworth. But Cllr Illingworth explained this was a 'misunderstanding' as the thousands of homes coming to Kenilworth is dictated by Warwick district's Local Plan.
More than 600 responses were received in the consultation, and Cllr Illingworth said this meant parts of the final plan were 'drastically different'. But he felt the plan should still be approved by the district council.
He added: "If we've done our job properly, it should be relatively acceptable."
Cllr John Cooke (Con, St John's) praised the hard work that went into the plan.
He said: "This is a work of epic proportions. I'm not going to exaggerate, but this is the most important work this council has done for many, many years. We've left no stone unturned.
"It has been, at times, a rocky road. Some of the consultations that took place (in Jubilee House) were not exactly user-friendly either. Emotions ran high.
"But the document we have arrived with is an excellent document."
And Cllr Richard Dickson (Lib Dem, St John's) praised Kenilworth's residents for their feedback on the plan.
He said: "I want to thank the people of Kenilworth for their input on this and for their patience.
"We've had three public meetings (since the first draft) and I think we end up with better plans as a result.
"I don't doubt if we spent more time on this plan we would get an even better plan but I think it's perfectly good to go forward as it is."
Some of the main changes to the plan include supporting a 20mph limits in the town centre and on new developments, support for any plans to improve Kenilworth's air quality, and continued support for a two-storey car park as long as electric vehicle charging points and bike parking is supported.
A new policy on flooding has been added, which states that any scheme which reduces the risk of flooding in the town will be supported, and any which may increase risk will be resisted.
Other changes include firming up the protection to Castle Farm and its nearby residents, who are worried about the planned move to the site by Kenilworth Wardens.
Their concerns included whether public access to the site will be maintained and the likely increase in traffic.
The plan will now only support the Wardens move if all the facilities remain accessible to the public 'where possible', new traffic routes are backed up by a 'full traffic study' which will minimise disruption, and all new buildings and lighting are 'appropriate to the Green Belt location'.
The Neighbourhood Plan can be viewed in full at Kenilworth Library or here