Ann Salmon did a good job of summarising the questionnaire responses – a difficult task given the large number of questions and many write-in comments. This is a summary of her summary (apologies for any omissions due to difficulty in hearing everything that was said):
There were 278 responses. The predominant preferences for use of the creek were maritime, leisure and small-scale industrial.
Things people wanted were: protection of open spaces (particularly on the Brents), wildlife and natural habitats; lower lighting levels; better footpaths, cycleways and signage; traffic calming and pedestrian safety on roads near the creek; crafts skills, apprenticeships, boats.
There was support for the Creek Trust’s work at the Purifier Building and for maritime activity at Standard Quay and Ordnance Wharf.
Many people said there were already enough pubs and cafes, though there were some suggestions for this kind of use at Standard Quay and the disused building near Morrisons.
Comments about creekside housing: should be minimised; should not inhibit access to the creek; too tall; will not help with the housing shortage; too expensive, exclusive, middle class; there are better places for it; too much housing already; it will become a dormitory; decisions about housing should not be financially driven. 88% said more housing would harm the environment and the character of the neighbourhood, cause more traffic and loss of heritage. And there were complaints that there were too many questions about housing.
31% of respondents wanted fewer than 10 homes in the NP area. 12% said 11-20. 11% said 21-30. 9% said 31-50. 7% said 51-70. 12% said 71-100. 12% did not express an opinion.
The preferred types of housing were small family houses, starter homes, homes for older people. 44% wanted affordable housing. Preferences were for housing to be low-rise, in keeping with the creekside character, no blocks of flats, low-energy.
There was almost unanimous support for an opening bridge, its value as an attraction, working gates and sluices.
Good things about the creek: maritime, barges, wildlife, unique character.
Bad: silted up, poor footpaths, neglected.
Future: work on vessels, better footpaths, better access by water.
Fears: housing, overdevelopment, shops and cafes, loss of distinctiveness.
In discussion, Mike Cosgrove said the results were contradictory. He emphasised support for footpaths and the bridge, said that the number of comments was small and suggested that “nuanced” comments were open to alternative interpretation.
John Sell disagreed, and said the group should stick with statistics and accept the results as they stood. He said – perhaps alluding to Brecht (see Graham Warner’s comment) – “we should not be electing another people”, and that it would be foolish to go against the fact that hardly anyone wanted more than 50 housing units.
Mike Cosgrove commented that some ideas should be picked up even if only a few people had made them. As an example, he quoted “more housing for elderly/disabled people”. Natalie Earl agreed that individuals can come up with good ideas.
Andrew Osborne said that the opinions of a few hundred people are of little significance in a town of 20,000, and that the feedback from the consultation should be considered as “useful but not directive”.
Yes, he really did say that.
The full summary will be put on the Neighbourhood Plan website before the next meeting.