Debate: how should the NP steering group be expanded?

Comments, please: what kind of changes are needed to make the Neighbourhood Plan steering group more representative and inclusive, to gain the confidence, respect and support of the whole community and steer the plan in a new direction?

Faversham Town Council has authorised the group to expand its membership, talking in terms of 4-5 new members. The steering group says “a number of organisations such as FATA (Faversham Area Tourist Association), the Faversham Society and the Faversham Creek Trust, business groups, etc. will be asked to send representatives”. There is no mention of community, school, youth groups etc., nor of any changes to the existing membership.

Is this the right approach? These are some of the questions that people have been asking:

Which organisations, community groups or other aspects of the town should be represented? How should the membership be decided – should it be up to the existing members to choose who’s invited to join them? How big does the group need to be to be broadly representative (see some comparisons below) – would 4-5 extra members be enough? Should all the existing members remain in place? Are some groups over-represented? What constituency does the Faversham Creek Consortium speak for, and do its representatives have any kind of mandate from the membership? Does Swale have too much influence and Faversham too little? Should there be a greater range of specialist knowledge, skills and expertise – if so, what’s needed? Should there be a better balance of male and female, and of different age groups? Should there be more “ordinary” people? If new ideas and attitudes are needed, should the steering group continue under the same leadership?

For information, the steering group currently has 9 members:
Nigel Kay, Chairman (Faversham Town Councillor)
Mike Cosgrove, Vice Chairman (Swale Borough Councillor, Chair of Creek Consortium Management Group)
John Coulter (Faversham Town Councillor)
Trevor Payne (Faversham Town Councillor)
Mike Henderson (Swale Borough Councillor)
Anne Salmon (Creek Consortium Management Group, Trustee of Faversham Society)
Andrew Osborne (Creek Consortium Management Group)
John Sell (Faversham Town Council Planning Agent)
Tony Fullwood (Planning Consultant, author of the 2010 report commissioned by Swale, upon which the steering group’s approach has been based).

Jackie Westlake (Clerk to Faversham Town Council) acts as secretary.
Meetings are also attended by:
David Simmons (Mayor of Faversham)
Natalie Earl (Senior Planner, Swale Borough Council)
+ various Swale council officers from time to time.

For comparison, the successful neighbourhood plan in Thame was begun with a working group that included 45 community representatives, and was then progressed by a core group of 26, which included 13 councillors (the entire town council) and 13 community representatives. There were also separate focus groups.

For another neighbourhood plan, in Malmesbury (very much smaller than Faversham) there is a group of 17: 6 town, county and parish councillors and 11 representatives from various parts of the community (residents, retailers, Chamber of Commerce, major local employer, primary care trust, civic trust, conservation group, environmental group, community partnership, youth development group, elderly housing/care provider).


2 thoughts on “Debate: how should the NP steering group be expanded?

  1. Mike Palmer

    More thoughts on increased membership…

    Firstly, congratulations to the current group for recognising that they need to expand the talents available and to change the way they communicate.

    If the membership is expanded, then new members must be able to add value by contributing new ideas, skills and leadership – and are willing to devote the time to do this effectively. The small group of local Councillors have many other duties and cannot be expected to give this exercise, which is so important to the future of Faversham, sufficient resource.

    I make 3 points concerning future members:

    1. There is only one woman on the present team – this is anomalous to quote Mr Carney, particularly as so many of the reservations expressed concerning the Plan on this and other forums have been made so articulately by women.

    2. The Creek Trust has demonstrated real leadership and initiative both in the development of the Purifier Building and also in their well produced illustrations and posters of how things might develop. The Trust has recruited significant membership and volunteers very quickly – I believe that they have earned the right to nominate more than one representative.

    3. Peel Ports seem to be very reluctant to be involved so far. They are a large player in the UK maritime industry and their active involvement and buy-in will be vital if any of the plans for maritime use will ever come to fruition. The project has to be sold to them now, not later.

  2. Richard Murr

    Is the debate as to how the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group should be expanded or whether the Creek Neighbourhood Plan is an embarrassment that should be ditched?

    In the House of Commons Library guidance note SN/SC/5838 dated 4 June 2013 at paragraph 4 it refers to the fact that where there is a neighbourhood development plan in place the neighbourhood will be able to receive 25% of the revenues from the Community Infrastructure Levy arising from the development that they have chosen to select.It goes on to state “The aim of this proposal is to incentivise house building”.

    It is clear that the majority of people who attended the exhibition were against more house building around the Creek. It seems to me that the proposal to expand the Steering Group is to include organisations and groups whose leadership might be prepared to recommend more housing. For example a group’s leadership might be swayed by the idea that if 200 new homes were built alongside the creek the 25% share of the loot could be spent on a new bridge.

    For my part I say no more housebuilding around the Creek. Send a clear message out to the developers and their land banks, ditch the proposals for a neighbourhood plan that relates only to the Creek area and press on with conserving our maritime heritage.


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