Villagers in Freshford and Limpley Stoke have become the first in the country to get within touching distance of a Neighbourhood Plan, giving them more power to determine the future of their communities.

Stephen Williams MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, councillors and officers from both Wiltshire Council and bath and North East Somerset Council met the team of parish councillors and other volunteers last Monday to learn about their work.

The draft Freshford and Limpley Stoke Neighbour- hood Plan includes the parishes of Freshford in BANES and Limpley Stoke in Wiltshire. The Plans allow communities to lay down fixed guidelines for development in their area which are used to help decide on planning applications.

Mr Williams said it was a unique project because it was one of the first involving two parish councils and two different unitary authorities. The Government’s Localism Act of 2011 aims to involve as many people as possible in deciding where new developments are put.

“This is done at parish levels and the advantage is that it had community involvement from the start to end, when there will be a referendum. It was clear people in the villages are very engaged with it,” Mr Williams said The two parishes have already done extensive local consultation over the past two years, with more than 50 volunteers involved in creating the plan.

It will now go to BANES and Wiltshire Council for consultation ahead of an independent examination and a local referendum.