BETTER protection will be given to two green belt villages if future planning applications to build homes are lodged - after a ‘once-in-a-generation’ referendum was held to force change and give residents a bigger voice.

Silkstone Parish Council’s long-awaited neighbourhood development plan - which is five years in the making - resulted in a final public vote being held last Thursday.

More than 600 residents voted, with 556 in favour of adopting the framework which will allow the parish council to have ‘significant influence’ on planning-related decision-making.

Fears had grown that the green corridors which separate Silkstone and Silkstone Common would be targeted by developers.

Barnsley Council’s local plan blueprint - which identified space to build more than 21,000 homes in the town by 2033 - was signed off in 2019 but fiercely protected areas have been afforded better protection in places such as Cawthorne, Oxspring and Penistone.

The local plan sets out that there will be a ‘slower pace and scale’ of growth in rural areas, but villages will still be expected to deliver approximately five per cent of the overall housing requirement figure through housing allocations or windfall sites.

However, Silkstone Parish Council will be afforded more say in the local decision-making process due to the neighbourhood plan’s public approval.

A statement from Lesley Gill, the parish council’s chair, said: “We are delighted to announce that the neighbourhood development plan, which includes policies that protect the environment, character and heritage of the parish, has been successful.

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“This means that once the official adoption process by the local planning authority has been completed, this document will have legal planning weight in the determining of planning applications within Silkstone Parish Council.

“Created with the considerable involvement of the local community, this positive result represents a significant success for the parish and its residents, as it provides local detail and protections to the assets and character which makes Silkstone, Silkstone.

“Our thanks go to all those who contributed to the drawing up of the plan, especially Ian Turner who gave many voluntary hours, with input from parishioners, councillors and outside bodies including Barnsley Council.”

House prices in the parish are higher than average for the Barnsley Council area, reflecting its status as a popular and highly desirable area, with surrounding countryside, highly-regarded schooling and good commuting links.

A parish council report added: “We started to consider whether a neighbourhood development plan (NDP) should be prepared and set up a working party research the costs and feasibility of the work involved.

“The parish extends over 630.69 hectares and is located in Barnsley’s green belt.

“We set out to maintain the character of the villages by ensuring that any development is sensitive to the existing built and natural environment but recognises the need to support 21st century living in a sustainable way.

“Residential development within or adjacent to this area should respond sensitively and positively to the green corridor and provide hedgerow boundary treatments and tree planting to screen the visual impact of development on the wider landscape.

“Key local landscape features including hedgerows, meadows, woodland and mature trees and stone walls should be conserved, and opportunities should be taken to restore and repair such features where they have been neglected.

“The ‘green corridor’ separating Silkstone and Silkstone Common should be maintained.”