Why has Faversham Creek got a Neighbourhood Plan?

In the words of Swale Borough Council (at a conference on ‘localism’, 8 March 2013), it is good for us because of: using local knowledge/skills, getting people more active in the community, making communities more cohesive, getting facilities locals really want, greater flexibility, real decision making – and finally: no longer ruled from Sittingbourne – destiny in their own hands.

And how did the plan come about?

Again, in the words of Swale Borough Council: The government encouraged the development of a number of neighbourhood plans ahead of the enactment of legislation through the Neighbourhood Planning Vanguard Scheme. Swale Borough Council was awarded £20k to assist with the development of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan. The Council applied to become a planning ‘front runner’ and then asked Faversham Town Council to lead the process.

So the people of Faversham never asked for a Neighbourhood Plan.

Faversham Town Council didn’t ask for a Neighbourhood Plan.

Swale Borough Council – encouraged by central government – decided we should have one.

No longer ruled from Sittingbourne? Destiny in our own hands?

We are guinea pigs for the Neighbourhood Planning process, and we’re paying over £100K for the privilege – way beyond the original budget because, as guinea pigs, the council had no idea what it was letting itself in for (as is evident from the minutes of steering group meetings).

There’s localism for you!


7 thoughts on “Why has Faversham Creek got a Neighbourhood Plan?

  1. Pingback: Visions of a Creek

  2. Sue Cooper

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am so relieved that someone has said this. My heart dropped and it is no exaggeration to say I felt despair when I heard about the Neighbourhood Plan. All that happens every single time the Council take any notice of the Creek is that they commission a plan and it simply wastes money. It is so awful because it is bad publicity for the real issues since people believe this money is actually going on the Creek. It is not. It is simply a way the Council seem to cope with the fact that they can do nothing about the land being in the ownership of developers. We just need the Council to stand firm and say no to housing and other non-maritime uses. Then the developers will go away. I don’t understand what is so difficult about this. But instead the first and so far only practical thing that the Neighbourhood Plan process has done, is to remove the protection of the flood designation. They next plan to remove the protection of AAP2. When we ran Standard Quay as the bargeyard, the consultant employed to draw up the report the Plan is based on, Tony Fullwood, came to talk to us (only because we contacted the Council to tell them we also should have a voice, not just our landlord). We showed him the apprentices, the barges, the dry docks, the block-maker’s workshop, the sail loft and all the skilled people that were working there. And we were ignored. All that is in the report is that Standard Quay needs regenerating. But all this activity and employment and tourist interest was there at the time.
    The landowners have drawn up the Neighbourhood Plan, not the residents or the Creek users. It’s all very well at this late stage trying to make up for the lost ground of restoring footpaths that the Council should have protected at the time, but this won’t bring back the barges.

    1. Hilary Whelan

      Well said, Sue. It’s no wonder people are sceptical about the word regeneration when it’s misused like this. And the sneaky change in flood designation is worrying because not only does it remove protection from development, it also removes protection from flooding! The original designation was ‘functional flood plain, where water can flow or be stored in case of flooding’ – a sort of release valve to stop water funneling up to the head of the creek. What happens when you take that away?

    1. Brian Caffarey

      How depressing to read the same ‘burying one’s head in the sand’! If Sue Cooper thinks the developers will simply go away, she really is living in cloud-cuckoo land! How many times is it necessary to point out that if there is no Neighbourhood Plan, planning applications will simply be determined under national planning guidelines, which make it much less likely that they will take account of local wishes or provide benefits for the community – for example, in the form of public footpaths and moorings.

      1. Sue Cooper

        I do read planning policy. Not as a professional, but I think with a reasonable degree of intelligence. Where does it say that footpaths will be closed or moorings lost in the planning policy framework? I missed that bit.

      2. Hilary Whelan

        This is how the Neighbourhood Plan is being sold to us: to protect us from the evil developers! Could these be the same developers that Swale Borough Council has actively encouraged through its determination to enable development on a functional flood plain – without which we wouldn’t have needed protection in the first place? On the evidence so far, it’s hard to see how national planning guidelines would give us anything worse than what’s on offer in the Neighbourhood Plan. There would still be conservation area, listed building and other heritage-related protections, the planning authority would still be able to impose obligations upon developers, and developers would still have to pay a bung – sorry, an s106 or CIL contribution– to Swale Borough Council. If a proportion of the bung is not spent for the benefit of the community, or if the planners don’t use their powers to insist on developers providing facilities such as public access to the waterfront (which they have conspicuously failed to do in the past), blame it on the council, not on council tax payers who have the temerity to question the direction of the Neighbourhood Plan. As for developers “going away”, don’t forget that Faversham has frequently fought back feistily when its heritage has been threatened. Wouldn’t it be nice if our town council stood up for that heritage, rather than bending over backwards to accommodate the demands of developers and Swale Borough Council?

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