This is a letter sent by the Brents Community Association to their local ward councillors on Faversham Town Council:
Dear Councillor Hawkins and Councillor Culham,
EXTRAORDINARY TOWN COUNCIL MEETING, 13 OCTOBER
At the Neighbourhood Plan consultation in May/June this year, there were two options for the Ordnance Wharf site: Option A for 3-storey housing with some commercial ground floor use, and Option B for a 2-storey community centre and boatyard, with no housing. 87% of respondents supported Option B – no housing.
The 2013 consultation got the same response: “The preferred use of the site was for maritime use. Any building should be no more than 1-2 storeys, using materials in keeping with the creekside such as weatherboard. The rest should be used as a boatyard and there should be moorings, with any walkways wide enough for outside storage of materials.”
The community centre/boatyard proposal was put forward by the Brents Community Association, to provide a much-needed focal point, meeting place, projects and activities for people on the Brents / North Preston estate. There may be other places where a more conventional community centre could go, but this creek-based location provides an opportunity for something original and distinctive. Potential partners have found it exciting. Funding bodies told us they were likely to respond more positively to something that was out of the ordinary.
We can deliver. Together with the Faversham Creek Trust we have already secured a five-figure funding from the Department of Work and Pensions for a project working with long-term unemployed people on the estate, but we could do much more and much better if we had our own centre. For that, we would need a simple, site-appropriate building on Ordnance Wharf, with water-compatible activities on the ground floor (which is at risk of flooding) and function rooms, catering, etc. above.
The latest version of the Neighbourhood Plan, however, does not include the favoured option B which would allow for our boatyard development. It does not include option A either. It offers instead a “mixed use” proposal that includes residential use, which it is claimed would allow either of the two options.
It would not. As soon as residential use is in the mix, it will dominate. The land value will soar and community/social enterprise use will become unaffordable. The site footprint is simply too small to accommodate vehicle access, boatyard activities, a community centre and a public footpath as well as bin storage and parking for all the residents and other users. It just would not work.
It is argued that substantive changes cannot be made to the draft plan, otherwise there would have to be another round of consultation, but the new policy for Ordnance Wharf is a substantive change. It was not in the original draft and nobody voted for it.
Reverting to Option B would not be a substantive change. It was in the consultation draft and had overwhelming support. It would be sustainable development providing economic and social benefits, in line with the National Planning Policy Framework. It would be compatible with local planning policy and with heritage preservation, and it would have huge public support.
We ask you, as our Ward representatives, to support our appeal to the Town Council to reinstate Option B for non-residential development on Ordnance Wharf. This is OUR neighbourhood, but there is nothing else for us in this neighbourhood plan – and to suggest that a small part of a floodable ground floor of a residential block is good enough for our community centre is, frankly, an insult to our community.
Chair, Brents Community Association October 12, 2014