Why has Faversham Creek got a Neighbourhood Plan? (part 2)

Back in March 2013, we asked why has Faversham Creek got a neighbourhood plan? These minutes confirm that the process was engineered by Swale Borough Council as a means of implementing the recommendations of the Fullwood Report – with “the support” of Faversham Town Council, together with the Swale-controlled Faversham Creek Consortium, Swale’s planning consultant, Swale councillors and Swale administrative support.

Under the localism legislation, neighbourhood plans are supposed to be a local-democracy alternative to control by a larger planning authority. They are supposed to be community-led, controlled by the parish council. The planning authority is obliged to provide support if requested, but it is not supposed to initiate or influence the process.

Swale Borough Council, 23 February 2011: question from Councillor Mike Henderson to Councillor Gerry Lewin. Responsible officer: Gill Harris.

Question: “The recent consultant’s report [the Fullwood Report] on regeneration around Faversham Creek proposes substantial changes in plans for the Creek area from earlier Council policy [AAP2]. Will the cabinet member for sustainable development make a clear commitment to further public consultation on these plans to allow residents of Faversham and elsewhere to make their views known on the plans and the changes proposed in Council policy.”

Response: There has already been substantial public consultation on the Faversham Creek Area Action Plan Development Plan Document (DPD). DPDs must go through a statutory process with several stages of public consultation. During 2008–2009, consultants (Urban Initiatives and Urban Delivery) worked with the community and landowners to develop a vision and objectives for the DPD and to develop a series of potential options. This was reported to the Local Development Framework (LDF) Panel in October 2009, and subsequently posted on the website for public comment.

Pursuant to the Panel decision an independent consultant [Tony Fullwood] was appointed in May 2010 to take the work forward through:
1. Undertake feasibility and viability work, building on the earlier Urban Initiatives Report;
2. Advise on development options for the Creek Area; and
3. To provide advice on the most appropriate planning route to achieve the regeneration objectives for the Creek Area.

The resulting work was reported to the LDF Panel on 25 November 2010. It was agreed that this technical report [the Fullwood Report] be used as part of the evidence base for the Faversham Creek DPD. It does not represent Council policy at this stage. As this report is a technical, independent assessment, no changes to this document will be made.

Further to a Member request at the Cabinet meeting of 8 December 2010 for the opportunity for public consultation on the study, this technical paper has been worked up to improve the graphics and will be posted on the website shortly. In the meantime, enquirers have been directed to the LDF Panel Agenda from last November and comments have been received on the basis of that.

Any comments made on the technical paper [the Fullwood Report] will be used to inform the next stage of the DPD preparation. This is now getting under way and entails the preparation of the Preferred Option draft of the Faversham Creek DPD. This will be a draft policy document and is expected to come to the Local Development Framework Panel during summer 2011 and then to public consultation (dates to be advised).

Subsequently the DPD will be amended, if appropriate, and published at which point there is a further opportunity for public comment. It will then submitted [sic] to the Secretary of State. A short Examination in Public is expected to hear any outstanding representations from the publication stage. Subject to the Inspector finding that the DPD is sound, it will then be adopted.

The Council may wish to note that in response to an opportunity to apply for additional funding from the Government’s new Vanguard pilot scheme for neighbourhood plans, a bid has been submitted to put forward the DPD as a neighbourhood plan with support from Faversham Town Council and the Creek Consortium. The Vanguard initiative would facilitate wider public participation and hopefully achieve wider agreement as to what the community want to see in the plan and support the production of the DPD within the timescales currently anticipated. If successful, plans would be subject to independent examination and a local referendum before being formally adopted.

In summary, the consultant’s report [the Fullwood Report] is not Council policy for the Faversham Creek area – it is part of the research base for that. Comments have already been received on it and a fair copy will be on the web site imminently. These comments will be taken into account in drafting the DPD policy document. There will be two more formal opportunities for public comment on the draft DPD and an Examination in Public, before the DPD is finally adopted as policy.

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