Residents of East Boldon and parts of Cleadon and Boldon Colliery are set to go to the polls next week to vote on a neighbourhood plan for their area.
Neighbourhood planning enables communities to help shape development and growth in their local areas by giving local people the chance to have their say on where new homes, offices, transport and other community infrastructure could be built in the future.
A referendum on the East Boldon Neighbourhood Plan is taking place on Thursday 28 October.
The referendum is run in the same way as a local election. However, residents will be asked whether they want South Tyneside Council to use the neigbourhood plan for East Boldon to help decide planning applications in the neighbourhood area. Voters will be able to mark the ballot paper with a cross (X) in the 'Yes' or 'No' box.
Residents can vote in person at the polling station at Scout Hut, behind the Grey Horse pub in Front Street, East Boldon. Those eligible to vote at the polling station will have received their poll card confirming this. The polling station will be open between 7am and 10pm on Thursday 28 October.
Residents with a postal vote are urged to complete and return their postal ballots as soon as possible. Those who have not had time to post it before polling day, can still hand it in at the polling station on Thursday 28 October. Postal votes that arrive after 10pm will not be counted.
People voting in person are encouraged to help keep themselves and others safe by wearing a face covering (unless exempt), bringing their own pen or pencil and cleaning their hands while entering and leaving the polling station.
Voters should not attend the polling station if they have symptoms of Covid-19 or if they have been asked to self-isolate. Anyone who develops symptoms or is asked to self-isolate shortly before polling day has up to 5pm on polling day to apply for an emergency proxy vote. This allows them to nominate someone they trust to vote on their behalf.
Jonathan Tew, Counting Officer at the referendum, said: "Those living in the East Boldon neighbourhood area will be heading to the polling station on Thursday 28 October. The referendum is an opportunity for them to make their voices heard on how local planning matters will be determined in the future.
"It is important that those residents in the neighbourhood area check the information on their polling cards or postal votes.
"Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday 28 October. Voters who have opted to vote by post must return their postal ballot pack by 10pm. However, they can hand it in at the local polling station if they don't have time to return it by post.
"We would encourage people to consider the information and guidance available about the voting process beforehand, so they know what to do on the day."
What voters need to know before the referendum:-
Stay COVID safe:
-People are encouraged to wear a face mask while in the polling station, unless exempt;
-Use the hand sanitiser provided as on entering and leaving the station;
-Be respectful of others in the polling station, keep a sensible distance and follow any guidance on display and any directions issued by the polling station staff;
-Take a pen or pencil or use one of the clean pencils available at the station.
- Polling cards have been sent to the addresses of registered voters in the neighbourhood area. The cards give details of the location of the polling station.
- Plan when to cast your vote and leave plenty of time before the 10pm deadline. Those who arrive at the polling station after 10pm will miss their chance to take part.
- Make sure postal votes are returned by 10pm on Thursday 28 October. (Voters had to have applied to vote by post by 13 October in order to be able to vote on the day.)
- Voters should have received their postal vote by 22 October.
- Those who have not had time to post it before the referendum, can hand it in at the polling station. Postal votes that arrive after 10pm on 28 October will not be counted.
- If you have appointed a proxy, then they need to make sure they are able to vote at your polling station on your behalf;
- If you suddenly become unable to vote in person, due to a medical emergency (including having to self-isolate due to COVID-19) or because your occupation, service or employment means you cannot go to the polling station, and you only become aware of that fact after the deadline, then you may be entitled to appoint an emergency proxy;
- You can apply for an emergency proxy up until 5pm on the day of the referendum. Contact South Tyneside Council's Elections Team direct about this, on (0191) 424 7230.
What to take:
- Face covering (unless exempt);
- A pen or pencil, although clean pencils will be available at the station;
- You can take the poll card with you to show polling station staff when you arrive. They will still ask for you to confirm your name and address. The staff will not take your card from you. Please take it home and dispose of it securely. If you don't have your poll card with you, just tell the polling station staff your name and your address and they can check whether you are on the electoral register.
- Social media is a great way to let friends and family know you have voted.
- Remember, pictures of you before you go into or after you leave the polling station are great to use on social media posts, but don't take a picture of yourself inside the polling station as if you post this it could be a breach of the law.
How to fill in the ballot paper:
- The staff at the polling station will give you a ballot paper.
- Staff will be on hand at the polling station to provide advice on the voting process;
- Those who are disabled can ask the Presiding Officer for help and they can mark the ballot papers for you. You can also ask someone else to help (e.g. a close relative, friend or support worker, who is an eligible elector);
- Those who have a visual impairment can ask for a large print copy of the ballot paper, a special voting device that allows them to vote on their own in secret, or a magnifying glass, or they can use a magnifying app on their own mobile phone;
- Take your ballot paper into a polling booth so that no one can see how you vote. Read the ballot papers carefully. They will tell you how to cast your vote.
- Mark the ballot papers according to the instructions. Do not write anything else on the papers or your votes may not be counted;
- People are encouraged to bring their own pen or pencil to mark the papers, but clean pencils will also be available;
- If you make a mistake on a ballot paper, don't worry. So long as you haven't already put it in the ballot box, just let the polling station staff know and they can issue you with a replacement ballot paper;
- Fold your completed ballot paper in half and pop it in the ballot box - and that's it done!
Around 3,400 people are entitled to vote in the referendum on the East Boldon Neighbourhood Plan, with around 1,400 of those residents registered to vote by post.
If more people vote 'Yes' than 'No' in the referendum, then South Tyneside Council will use the Neighbourhood Plan to help decide planning applications in the East Boldon Neighbourhood Forum area.
If more people vote 'No', then planning applications will continue to be decided using the policies in the various documents that comprise the Development Plan for South Tyneside.