Whenever someone criticises the way the Neighbourhood Plan is going, or suggests an alternative approach, the answer is always ooh, can’t! Yes, it might be nice, but you don’t understand. It’s got to conform to this, that and the other, it’s got to keep the landowners happy, it’s got to satisfy the planning inspector. But hang on…
If you read the steering group minutes, you’ll see that none of this is set in stone. Nobody quite knows what the rules are. There are too few precedents. They’re having to make it up as they go along. That’s one of the reasons it’s taking so long and costing so much.
The Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan is a guinea pig for the Department of Communities and Local Government. We’re part of an experiment to find out how localism works in practice. We’re also part of Swale Borough Council’s search for signposts on its localism “journey”.
So why aren’t we showing them the way? It may not be the answer they were looking for, but hey, that’s democracy for you!
These guinea-pig neighbourhood plans are called Vanguard projects. What do Vanguards do? They lead, they don’t follow. So why are our leaders being such deferential scaredy-cats? Why can’t we be bold, stand up for what’s good for Faversham, and challenge the localism machine?