A communication from the Faversham Creek Consortium

The response to those who signed a resolution to dissolve the Faversham Creek Consortium can be seen here FCC-replytorequestforSpecialMeeting.

The secretary, Brian Caffarey, says he is unable to contact the signatories because he has only their postal addresses. He is not prepared to deliver by hand, and says the Consortium has no funds for postage (less than £15). He has therefore contacted three signatories whose email addresses he happens to have, and asked them to pass on the message in whatever way they think fit.

Since they do not know all the other signatories or have their email addresses, Visions of a Creek is making the response available in the hope that everyone concerned will see it. Please circulate it as widely as possible.

The response, in brief, says that the Consortium’s management group will discuss what to do on 21 May. Given that 21 days’ notice is required for any meeting, this would mean that a vote on the resolution could not take place till the middle of June at the earliest.

It also suggests that the signatories to the resolution should pay the cost of room hire.

It notes that the management group had already recognised that the Consortium was “drawing to a close” but decided to continue “because it was considered that it remained a useful forum for discussion between representatives and individuals who uniquely make up the Management Committee.”

Constitutionally, there is at present no management group. Members were elected on 24 March 2014 to serve for one year. Since the AGM was aborted and has not been rescheduled, there have been no elections and there is no provision in the constitution for members to serve beyond their one-year term.

Here is a suggestion. Since there has to be an AGM anyway, call the Extraordinary meeting for the same date, thus there will be no duplication of costs. And do it now.


Resolution to dissolve Creek Consortium

The Chair of the Faversham Creek Consortium has been given notice of a resolution to dissolve the Consortium, on the grounds that “the management group does not conduct the business of the Consortium competently nor in accordance with the constitution, and that the Consortium has no legitimate role and serves no useful purpose.”

The constitutional breaches quoted are that the management group does not, and makes no effort to, fulfil its objectives of consulting, co-ordinating and encouraging participation by the community; it does not meet the requirement of holding at least two public meetings a year; it does not have the requisite number of elected members; and it has failed to give adequate notice or make adequate arrangements for the AGM.

It is noted that the Consortium no longer has a role in the replacement of the Creek swing bridge or the Neighbourhood Plan and is no longer associated with Swale Borough Council. Since the management group does not consult with the membership or seek any kind of mandate, it cannot claim to represent anyone, or to speak and act on anyone’s behalf, and therefore has no useful purpose.

A further notice has been served calling for an Extraordinary meeting at which the resolution to dissolve can be put to the vote. This asks for a date to be set within 7 days, allowing for 21 days notice to be given.

More information about the Consortium, including the constitution, can be found here.

Independent Examiner appointed

Swale Borough Council has said that Timothy Jones, a barrister, has been appointed as the Independent Examiner for the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan. He previously examined the Cringleford neighbourhood plan.

No public announcement of this appointment has yet been seen, nor is there any sign of the publication of responses to the consultation feedback, which it was said would be made public when the examiner was appointed.

It had been said previously that Swale Borough Council had drawn up a shortlist of three potential candidates, and that Faversham Town Council would be making the final choice. It is not clear when or by whom or on what basis this choice was made, since it is not recorded in the minutes of any town council meeting.

Readers may be interested to note the comment on consultation made by Mr Jones in his report on the Cringleford plan: “I also bear in mind that parish councillors are democratically accountable, subject to a code of conduct and likely to be in close contact with the community they represent.”




How the “minor modifications” were made

The process by which “minor modifications” to the Neighbourhood Plan were produced has at last been divulged. It is said that there was one meeting with representatives of English Heritage, now rebranded as Historic England (Martin Small, Principal Historic Environment Planning Adviser; Peter Kendall, Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments; Robert Lloyd-Sweet, Historic Places Adviser), Swale Borough Council (Natalie Earl, James Freeman, Peter Bell), Faversham Town Council (Nigel Kay, Jackie Westlake, and Anne Salmon “as a significant author of the Neighbourhood Plan”), together with the planning consultant Richard Eastham of Feria Planning.

It was agreed that detailed discussion of Historic England’s comments would be dealt with by Richard Eastham, supported by Swale planning and conservation officers. The agreement on the minor amendments was written by Richard Eastham in conjunction with Robert Lloyd-Sweet, and each draft was sent for comment to all who attended the meeting.

The modifications were approved by Faversham Town Council on 7 April, subject to correction of clerical and factual errors.

According to a Freedom of Information request by a member of the public, £5,940 was paid to the planning consultation for the production of the draft Neighbourhood Plan. The addition cost of producing the Schedule of Minor Amendments is not known.


‘Minor’ modifications to Neighbourhood Plan

The modifications to the Neighbourhood Plan which have been proposed in order to satisfy the concerns of English Heritage can be seen here.

With 12 pages of closely-typed amendments to 33 pages of the original plan, describing these as minor modifications does seem to be stretching the language a bit.

The first modification says “All sites allocated for development have been assessed initially through the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment 2011 conducted by Swale Borough Council, and the Strategic Environmental Assessment [date] prepared for the plan by Swale Borough Council.” This is a little mystifying, since no Strategic Environment Assessment has ever been seen, despite repeated requests for it – if it exists – to be made public.

An accompanying email says “Without prejudice to comments that Historic England might wish to make on individual development proposals that may come forward under the Neighbourhood Plan, I am happy to confirm that subject to the modifications being accepted the revised Neighbourhood Plan would address the concerns raised in our response to the consultation on the submission version of the plan dated 18th December 2014. As such, we would be happy to confirm that within the areas of interest to Historic England the plan would meet the basic conditions and would receive the support of Historic England.”

It should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that the plan would meet the basic conditions in any other respect.



Amendments to Neighbourhood Plan

Tucked away in the Town Clerk’s report for the Faversham Town Council meeting next Tuesday (7 April 2015):

Following discussions with English Heritage, the attached paper indicates minor amendments that can be accepted to the draft Neighbourhood Plan. The purpose of the attached is to reassure the Independent Examiner that English Heritage’s views, although submitted after the general consultation closed, have been considered and, where appropriate, taken into account. The Town Council, Swale Borough Council and the independent planning consultant, Richard Eastham have been in discussion with English Heritage and believe that the Plan, with those amendments, meets the basic conditions as required by independent examination as well as meeting English Heritage’s concerns.

Are Members content for this to be presented as the Town Council’s final amendments to the Plan following the consultation as led by Swale Borough Council?

The ‘attached’ paper referred to, detailing the amendments, is not included with the meeting papers on the FTC web page.

Creek Consortium AGM POSTPONED

The 2015 AGM of the Faversham Creek Consortium, which was due to be held on TUESDAY 31 MARCH, has been postponed because the room booked for the meeting would accommodate fewer than half of those who turned up.

The minutes of the most recent meeting of the management group can be seen here.

Further information about the consortium, and a link to the minutes of some earlier meetings can be seen here, but there is no mention of the agenda for the AGM.



The cabinet and the bridge

At their meeting on 11 March, the Swale Borough Council cabinet members considered a proposal to allocate £200,000 capital funding from reserves as a contribution to the cost of replacing the opening bridge on Faversham Creek – subject to a number of conditions, one of which is the success of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr Cosgrove, who put forward the proposal, said that the bridge was specifically mentioned in the Neighbourhood Plan, and that SBC, as the planning authority, needed assurance that other aspects of the plan (footpaths, better mooring places to work on vessels) are in place as well. [It is unclear why an opening bridge needs footpaths.]

Cllr Tollhurst (who, as leader of the Labour group at SBC is entitled to speak at Cabinet meetings, but is not a member of the cabinet and does not have a vote) noted that Cllr Cosgrove had been given a rough ride on this issue by the public at the Faversham Local Engagement Forum the previous week, and it was clear that residents were concerned about it. He asked about procedural matters, and also about the cabinet’s response to the English Heritage letter about the Neighbourhood Plan.

Cllr Cosgrove said
– Cllr Tollhurst was new in his post and had not had time to see how the Neighbourhood Plan fit with Swale’s local plan.
– Trevor Payne, a fellow Labour councillor, was a supporter of the Neighbourhood Plan.
– Swale’s planning department is in consultation with English Heritage. [It is unclear why this should be so, since Swale has no authority to alter the content of the Neighbourhood Plan.]
– The English Heritage letter was written by a new and very junior member of staff who had not really read the Neighbourhood Plan. [This is disputed.]
– English Heritage had made comments about footpaths, but had no statutory authority over footpaths. [Nor does Swale Borough Council or Faversham Town Council.]
He was unable to answer Cllr Tollhurst’s question on procedural matters.

Cllr Henderson (leader of the Independent group) noted that the bridge project has widespread support in Faversham, and that we are not asking for a new facility but for reinstatement of an existing facility (ie, we already have an opening bridge but it is not working). He agreed that funding should be subject to certain practical conditions, but not the condition involving the Neighbourhood Plan. He said the plan depends on the bridge, not vice-versa. [Curiously, this was also Cllr Cosgrove’s view as recently as last November, as can be seen in paragraph 6 of the minutes of the Faversham Creek Consortium, which Cllr Cosgrove chairs.]

Cllr Lewin (Cabinet member for Planning) said the Local Plan was set by the local authority [Swale]; the Neighbourhood Plan was set by a group which perhaps was not the local authority, and it was not theirs to direct what should happen. [The legislation in fact requires Neighbourhood Plans to be set up by parish councils/communities and not to be directed by the planning authority.]

Cllr Bowles (leader of the Council and chair of the Cabinet) said that Swale Borough Council is not responsible for highways (they are the responsibility of Kent County Council) and would not recommend spending a large sum on a highways scheme. The only reason for funding the bridge was as part of a regeneration scheme, and this depended on mooring and clearing the upper basin. [There is in fact no suggestion that SBC should contribute to the highways aspect of the bridge – ie, the road/pedestrian crossing – which is fully funded by Kent County Council.]

Cllr Bowles seconded Cllr Cosgrove’s proposal, including the Neighbourhood Plan condition, and praised Cllr Cosgrove effusively for his work on this project. Cllr Cosgrove said he was touched.

The Cabinet unanimously voted to approve the funding allocation, subject to completion of a feasibility study and all the stated conditions, including the Neighbourhood Plan.

Standard Quay restaurant application – again

The latest planning application for Building 1 on Standard Quay, for change of use to a restaurant, goes before Swale Borough Council’s planning committee on Thursday 12 March. The planning officer’s report to the committee recommends refusal, largely on the grounds that the re-application is not significantly different from the previous one which was turned down by a planning inspector on appeal. The report says the application is contrary to the planning inspector’s decision and to more recent statements by English Heritage in its response to the Neighbourhood Plan.

Despite the unequivocal recommendation of refusal, the application has been referred to the planning committee on the instruction of the Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr. Gerry Lewin.