Rules of (non)engagement
Q: (1) If people who don’t live in Faversham are allowed to respond to consultations and ask questions in writing, why can’t they ask questions in person at steering group meetings? (2) Why can people only speak ahead of the meeting, when they don’t know what will happen, rather than during and after in response to what is said?
A (David Simmons): the steering group is a committee of the Town Council; these are the rules that apply to the Town Council, therefore they must also apply to the steering group. Any change would require an amendment of standing orders.
Q: The Town Council must give leadership to the neighbourhood plan, but why does the steering group have to be a sub-committee with the same rules? It’s supposed to be a process of community engagement. Neighbourhood plans elsewhere have more informal and inclusive arrangements.
A (Mike Cosgrove): there are lots of different ways of doing neighbourhood plans and no definite rules. Informal arrangements are all very well if the plans are not complex.
Q: Will the outcome of other planning applications (eg, the Perry Court proposals) affect the neighbourhood plan?
A (John Sell): If there is more housing on other sites, it will take pressure off the creekside, and vice-versa.
Local plan and AAP2
Swale’s revised Local Plan goes out for consultation for 6 weeks from 19 August. There is no revision of the plan for Faversham Creek, pending the outcome of the Neighbourhood Plan in 2014. Until then, the existing plan, AAP2 – which is officially “saved” from the earlier Local Plan – still applies, subject to compatibility with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). If the Neighbourhood Plan is approved by referendum, it must be adopted by Swale as part of the Local Plan, in place of AAP2.
And now …?
It was emphasised that “not a word of the Neighbourhood Plan has yet been written” and there will be two more consultation processes, on first and second drafts, before it goes for scrunity by an independent examiner. The task will be to reconcile what the public wants with what the planning rules say – and, said Mike Cosgrove, “to marry up the very different and fragmented views that people have.”
Tony Fullwood’s resignation
Planning advisor Tony Fullwood resigned because of the “considerable gap between the consultation feedback and his 2010 report”. He recommended a review of the steering group and felt it would be helpful if he were no longer the advisor. He was also concerned about the prospects for the plan getting through the independent examination. The steering group commended him for having “helped move on some of the seemingly intractable issues.”
At the previous meeting, Mike Cosgrove said there were 500 jobs in the NP area. This should have been 600.
In response to the question raised at the last meeting about the retrospective designation of the NP (a legal requirement), Natalie Earl said it would go out for consultation within the next fortnight. This will be notified on the Swale and Faversham websites, and through local notices, and in writing to landowners [though apparently not in writing to residents within the NP area, as was stated in the minutes of an earlier meeting].
Planning use classes
There was further debate about the designation of planning use classes for the various NP sites, and the complications caused by the government constantly tweaking the rules. It was felt this could not be done in time for the September meeting, but would be done by October.
Under the heading “communication and engagement”, the priority was to ensure that the landowners understand the feedback and how it affects their sites, and to get their comments before the next meeting. [There was no mention of communication and engagement with the public, nor any suggestion that if landowners wanted to know what was going on they could go through the same channels as everyone else.]
Mike Henderson said the group should not push ahead until the new members were in place, and that in any communication with landowners it should be clear that the group was seeking views, not negotiating.
There was discussion of how to recruit a replacement for Tony Fullwood, what the specification should be, and to what extent Swale should be involved. Natalie Earl said that most neighbourhood plans do not have as much involvement from their local planning authority as this one does.
Conservation and heritage
Anne Salmon and John Sell have reviewed the submissions from Ray Harrison and Arthur Percival and have drafted letters in response.
No expenditure since the last meeting.
Mike Cosgrove wondered if there was some way of conducting a viability study of maritime uses for the creek. He said something similar had been done for the Solent.