Expanding the Neighbourhood Plan steering group

[Moderator’s note: we do our best to report impartially but, honestly, there are times when it’s just not humanly possible. Sorry.]

It was unanimously agreed that representatives of the Faversham Society, FATA (Faversham Area Tourism Association) and the local traders’ group should be invited to join the steering group [note: the group already includes a leading member of the Faversham Society].

Mike Cosgrove wanted Shepherd Neame to be invited on the grounds that their property might be affected by the bridge [note: this has nothing to do with the steering group]. There was no agreement on this and it was referred back to the Town Council.

The Faversham Enterprise Partnership had apparently declined an invitation to join, but it was suggested that it might be asked again.

There was a discussion about having a representative from the Brents Industrial Estate, and it was suggested that they could make a representation if they wanted to be included.

The Faversham Creek Trust
It was grudgingly acknowledged that the Trust might be considered. Mike Cosgrove incorrectly described it as a landowner and argued [in defiance of any known logic] that if it was to be admitted to the steering group, there should also be a representative of other landowners. Mike Henderson disagreed, saying that if landowners were included it would be difficult to get an objective outcome.

When it came to the vote, Andrew Osborne insisted that the Trust should only be allowed to join if there was also a landowner representative.

This was agreed.

Local residents
In the open session before the meeting, a member of the public, Teresa Luck, told the group that residents on the Brents side of the creek were setting up a Community Forum, and requested that they should be represented on the steering group.

Mrs Luck was treated with gross disrespect by Nigel Kay, who throughout the meeting admonished members of the public as though they were naughty children.

The idea of residents wanting to be represented had clearly not occurred to any of the steering group and seemed unwelcome to some. Mike Cosgrove questioned the membership and constitution of the Forum. Mike Henderson said this was not helpful and the steering group should welcome residents’ representatives from both sides of the creek. John Sell agreed, and said there should be a presumption of openness.

It was eventually agreed that there should be a representative from the Brents Community Forum, even if it didn’t yet have a constitution, and that the Abbey Street and Belvedere Road residents’ associations should be invited to put forward a joint representative for their side of the creek.

Other suggestions
Natalie Earl, noting that the steering group, and also the majority of respondents to the June consultation, tended towards the mature end of the spectrum, suggested that some younger people should be involved. There was also discussion of Amicus Horizon housing association and schools. It was noted that these groups may be represented within the Brents Community Forum.

Existing membership
The planning consultant, Tony Fullwood, has resigned, following the results of the public consultation.  A brief is to be drawn up for the recruitment of a replacement. There is some uncertainly over future funding by Swale Borough Council, and some debate about the level of influence exerted by Swale upon the plan.

No other changes to the existing membership were proposed.

Timescales
There was some discussion of when and how new members should join the group. Mike Cosgrove suggested that there should be an induction session for new members to bring them up to speed, because it was all very complicated.

Something was probably agreed but, frankly, most of us had lost the will to live by this stage.

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7 thoughts on “Expanding the Neighbourhood Plan steering group

  1. eric

    is there not a strong case for NOT joining this rotting steering group….. those with more political acumen please advise me on this……

    Reply
  2. Sue Cooper

    I am pleased that Tony Fullwood is no longer involved and I hope that his various inputs will now be examined far more critically by those making the decision as to what to include in the Plan.
    I am deeply concerned about the level of influence he has had in the preparatory stages. I asked him at the exhibition who had made the approach to the environment agency that had resulted in the flood plain designation being changed. He told me he did. I asked him why he asked them to change it, he said he did not ask, merely brought to their attention the plan to regenerate the area and they changed it. I asked him if he was aware how much value that had added to the land, at which point I think he realised I wasn’t a fan and told me I was misquoting him.
    Should he have been allowed to resign or should he have been fired, refunding the money he has been paid and investigated to find out what else he may have done without being asked by a democratically elected representative of the Town?
    Had those in authority taken proper notice of the strong objections to Mr Fullwood’s original report, we would not be where we are now three more wasted years down the line.

    Reply
  3. Nathalie Banaigs

    I was myself quite uncomfortable with the rude way in which Nigel Kay addressed the audience (the naughty children) not wanting to hear much expression of idea, opinion, or reaction of any sort. The idea is for the public (us, the residents they represent) to sit there and remain silent. The way it looks when you first walk in the top room at the Guildhall is archaic and intimidating. The chairman (Nigel Kay in this instance) sits on a big chair at the head of the table to direct the operations. He has access to a little hammer that he can use to hit the table with and say “Be quiet!”. He used it. Teresa Luck stood up first during the first 10 minutes, the only time we are allowed to speak. Teresa lives on the Upper Brents, she has always lived in Faversham. Along with others, they are forming a resident group in the Upper Brents where they feel a strong connection with the Creek. They want to be involved in the NP process. As they have never been approached before, they thought they’d take the opportunity of the call by the Steering Group to open it up to more people. So here she is, standing in front of the Steering group, reading out their thoughts and wishing to be represented. Surely, that has to be welcomed. It was moving and it was a superb piece of democracy. But Nigel Kay chose not to make things easy for Teresa, not to help her in speaking publicly. He tried to intimidate her,
    make her feel uncomfortable. Not acknowledging the significance of what she had said, not thanking her for being involved, Nigel Kay said: “What is your question?”. But she did well! So thank you Teresa, yes your group should be involved in the process.

    Reply
  4. bobtelford

    Well done Natalie Earl; about time someone woke up to the fact that the younger people in Faversham have been disenfranchised in this exercise, along with many others; It requires positive discrimination in favour of younger people, even though that may be fatiguing for some elder brethren. It is not easy, as the Creek Trust has found, but it is essential that the effort is made. Current examples of good inclusive consultation practice in Neighbourhood Plans exist.

    On the issue of Tony Fullwood resigning, it was never appropriate that the author of a report treasured by SBC should be a lead in the plan process; his position has been compromised by a sea change in the public mood; a public that has woken up.

    As for the rest, I was not there so cannot comment properly, except to say that the report reflects what I expected; a general reluctance to welcome more people into the decision making process, and a fear of the representative weight of the Creek Trust, that needs offsetting with a representative of the landowners; the question is – which one?

    Reply
    1. Nathalie Banaigs

      Bob, it was interesting to see that although Teresa Luck is actually quite young, there was not much enthusiasm in welcoming her and the Upper Brents group (currently being formed). Other groups that should be involved and haven’t been mentioned at all are those who use the creek and the water…!

      Reply
    2. Hilary Whelan

      Bob, I’m with you on all but one thing. I don’t think there HAS been a sea-change in public opinion. The views that are coming out now have been there all along – you can see them in feedback on the May 2012 exhibition, the 2012 streetscape strategy consultation, the Fullwood report (77 responses, never published, never mentioned, https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/responses_that_the_council_recei), the Urban Initiatives report, the two thousand handwritten comments in a Standard Quay petition. They have simply been ignored.
      Only two elements of the response to the May 2012 exhibition were picked up: (1) people hated the boat-style block of flats on Ordnance Wharf; this was interpreted to mean that a block of flats on Ordnance Wharf was fine so long as it looked nice, and (2) in the employment/housing/mixed tick-box exercise, mixed got most ticks; on this basis, it was stated that “the majority of residents are in favour of mixed-used development on creekside sites”.
      If you read the accompanying comments, though, you get a different story. The consistent messages are: minimal housing, maximum employment; support for maritime heritage; no development over 1-2 storeys; no mix of housing and employment on the same site. Similar feedback came from the streetscape strategy.
      But if there was ever any discussion of how to adapt the developing Neighbourhood Plan to take account of this feedback, it is not minuted. The May 2012 feedback was not compiled and published until eight months later, and then only after pressure from the public. In the meantime, there had been a ‘stakeholder’ workshop, and this – rather than the public consultation – was the basis for the June 2013 exhibition: maximal housing, 3-4 storeys, housing and employment mixed on the same site.
      For all the notice that was taken of it, the May 2012 exhibition might as well never have taken place. The steering group seems to have thought it could just go on asking the same questions until the public came up with the right answer.
      The latest round of feedback will be harder to ignore, but already there are attempts to spin it – people drawing attention to the bits they want to hear and glossing over the rest; claiming that it shows “very different and fragmented views”; downplaying the responses, even where they’re near-unanimous, because the numbers are small (though this applies only to unwelcome results – if a few hundred people tick the “mixed development” box, that’s “the majority of Faversham residents”, and of course, EVERYONE wants a footpath).
      The scandal is the sheer amount of time and money that has been squandered in the past five years. Why, having declared a policy of no more housing on the creekside (AAP2) did Swale not invest in implementing its policy but instead bung a hundred grand to UI to produce recommendations for housing development? Then more money to Fullwood to take it further. And finally, hijacking Faversham’s neighbourhood plan as a vehicle for implementing the Fullwood report.
      Hey, that worked out well, didn’t it?
      If public opinion had been acknowledged from the very start, and Swale had spent money on implementing its own policy instead of undermining it, we could have been spared years of aggravation and planning uncertainty, and a quarter of a million quid down the pan (more, if you count the cost of fighting interim planning applications) with still nothing to show for it. And most of the people responsible for this car-crash are still in the driving seat and blindly careering on.

      Reply
  5. Anna Bales

    Helpless mirth seemed the most appropriate response when pantomime time arrived early at the Guildhall. Then thinking back over the evening I’m left with an impression of inadequacy, failure and sheer nastiness. Anne Salmon, Trevor Payne, Mike Henderson and John Sell did try very hard to inject some semblance of decency into the meeting but to no avail. Three members of the group are determined to behave in a highly arrogant, bullying and unpleasant way, seemingly unaware of their culpability in this whole sorry and expensive production. Cllr Cosgrove ventured into comedy scattering his wisdom about with treasures such as ‘We are where we are and we’re going where we’re going’. But nothing will shift the disgust that I felt about the manner in which Teresa Luck was treated. Nigel Kay should hang his head in shame along with Cosgrove and Osborne. Their determined efforts to browbeat everyone into submission are falling apart but still they attempt to continue with their production of Malice in Blunderland. Don’t bother to buy tickets folks, you’ve already paid a heavy price.

    Reply

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