Neighbourhood Plan exhibition: the feedback (part 1)

This is a summary of the steering group meeting on 25 July 2013, which was open to the public for the first time. [This account has been endorsed by several people who were there, but if anyone spots any  errors, please let us know – it was difficult to hear what was said and questions during and after the meeting were not allowed.]

The analysis of the questionnaire responses by the consultants AMT has not been completed, but a summary of feedback on specific sites and other topics was presented.

There were 100-140 responses on each site, and the consensus was:
Purifier Overwhelming support for the Creek Trust project. Many people also favoured a walkway round the basin, but acknowledged that it might not be feasible.
Ordnance Wharf  No support for housing. People wanted maritime use. Any buildings should be no more than single-storey and weatherboarded.
BMM Weston  Walkway and moorings along the waterfront; some support for retaining a car park; no major objections to development of the rest of the site, though some concern about loss of employment.
Frank & Whittome (buildings behind Belvedere Road)  Workshops, maritime, possibly some residential.
Swan Quay  Support for the existing sailmaking business, plus craft, retail, moorings, walkway. Very strong negative response to the proposed blocks of flats.
Former oil depot  Maritime / possibly some residential.
Former coach depot  Opposition to residential use.
Standard Quay  Return to maritime use. Possibly some housing to the rear of the site, facing New Creek Road.
Standard House Restoration as a house; hotel also suggested.
Fentiman’s Yard  Could be housing, 1-2 storey.
Brents industrial estate and Iron Wharf As now – no change.

There were 70 comments. Main points:
Building height  Low-rise only.
Bridge  A working bridge.
Housing  Some people wanted none at all, some said not on certain sites. No support for housing on the basin. Concerns about the effect of residential development on traffic.
Other uses  A hotel and maritime museum had been suggested.
Finance  Planning gain from housing too small to be worthwhile.
Jobs  People did not want to see loss of employment, wanted more maritime employment and tourism.
Planning  People were concerned that proposals did not take any account of AAP2 or conservation area.
Exhibition  Criticised for being developer-led, drawings not in context, no site plans, lack of imagination.

In the discussion that followed [our comments in square brackets]:

Mike Cosgrove commented that there was a lot of support for walkways and moorings; that the public may not have fully understood the issues because the steering group had not communicated its message well enough or given enough information; that there were 600 jobs within the footprint of the NP but only 40 were maritime; and that it remained to be seen how the foregoing comments would mesh with the AMT report, still to come.

There was some discussion of what was meant by a “waterfront zone”. Nigel Kay seemed to be thinking in terms of a fixed walkway width, and said people he spoke to had talked of a 4-metre strip. David Simmons said he thought it meant residential development must be well away from the water’s edge. John Sell said it would have to be defined more specificially. [The Faversham Creek Trust response defines a waterfront zone for each site, rather than a fixed distance.]

There was a discussion of how to define what people wanted in terms of legal planning use classes. There are different classes of industrial use, but there is no way of specifying that the industry must be maritime – all you can do is define a class which would enable maritime industry [and which would prevent residential use]. The relevant classes would be B1 (light industry/R&D/offices), B2 (general industry); B8 (storage/warehousing), or “sui generis” (unclassifiable).  A possible problem with B1 is that it includes offices, and the government has relaxed the regulations for a 3-year trial period, so that offices can be converted to residential without the need for planning permission.

Other suggestions (eg, hotel, museum) would be planning use category C.

There was some discussion as to whether AAP2 (the default option until the NP is agreed) is compatible with what the National Planning Policy Framework says about brownfield sites, and whether proposed site uses could be challenged on viability/deliverability.  Also discussion about conservation requirements, and whether site-specific area appraisals are necessary. Anne Salmon and John Sell will consider Ray Harrison’s response on conservation issues.

£99,700 pre-Neighbhourhood Plan (UI & Fullwood reports, etc.)
£53,258 Neighbourhood Plan to date.
£72,950 budgeted to complete the plan to referendum.
Total:  £235,908.

Only 10 minutes before the meeting were allowed for questions from the public. One member of the public wanted to know how he was supposed to ask questions about what was said before anyone had said it. He was told that he could ask before the start of the next meeting, or send in a question and it would be answered on the website. It was suggested by the steering group that there were legal reasons why there could not be questions after the meeting [members of the public present did not understand this, but couldn’t ask for clarification because questions were not allowed].

It was also said that the new DCLG rules on filming and photography at public meetings apply only to district and borough councils and not to parish councils.

The steering group recognised that the Faversham Creek Trust has an important part to play, and suggested a meeting with the Trust. [Before the meeting began, the Trust had already invited the steering group and the Town Council to the Purifier on Tuesday 31 July, to discuss how to take the plan forward, but there was no clear response to this.]

Mike Cosgrove said that a meeting with the Trust might be useful, but in terms of equity there should also be meetings with other groups, such as the Faversham Society and the Abbey Street Residents’ Association. He also hoped that the steering group would only have to deal with representatives of the Trust, not with all 500 members. [?]

Nigel Kay also said that the steering group may be expanded to include representatives of other groups, including the Creek Trust. This will be raised at the next Town Council meeting.

It was mentioned that several questions had been submitted by email in advance of the meeting, but answering them would take too long so the answers would be put on the website. The steering group were unable to answer a question asked before the meeting about whether the Plan currently has any legal status because the restrospective designation has not been completed, and this also was carried forward to be answered later.

The feedback so far, and composition of the steering group, will be discussed at the next Town Council meeting on 29 July (7pm, Guildhall).

There will be another steering group meeting on 15 August (time and location unspecified), when the remaining feedback will be presented by AMT.

4 thoughts on “Neighbourhood Plan exhibition: the feedback (part 1)

  1. Harold Goodwin

    The Faversham News report reveals the divisions now opening up in the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. Anne Salmon is to be congratulated on the report she made at the Steering Group meeting on 25th July – she clearly demonstrated that some parts of the Steering Group are now listening.

    Cllr Cosgrove by contrast appears, from the report in the Faversham News, to understand communication differently. Communication is not merely a matter of the Steering Group speaking and the residents listening and following their lead. The Steering Group needs to start listening, they have spent a great deal of public money telling us what they think – it is to be hoped that Anne Salmon represents the majority view on the Steering Group and that the group will do a good deal more listening and include a broader range of interests in the steering group.

    It is time to move from nonsultation to genuine consultation – to achieve that the composition of the steering group needs substantial change. People who do no listen have no place running a consultation process and they need to be challenged and if necessary removed.

    If the report in the Faversham News has mislead me about his views perhaps he woudl like to respond here and tell us how he sees the consultation process moving forward. Which voices are to be heard and attended to?
    Harold Goodwin

  2. Harold Goodwin

    David, Thank you for acknowledging the accuracy and value of this report. – it feels as though there has been a sea change with much more transparency around the Neighbourhood Plan. I hope that the change can be sustained.
    And thanks to whoever produced the report so promptly – I have never understood why it takes so long for reports to come out. This proves that it can be done promptly albeit by a unpaid volunteer.


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