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).