Category Archives: Press

Report in Faversham News: clarification

We have been asked to point out that a claim made in a report in the Faversham News (12 June), about the removal of the Brents Community Association and the Faversham Creek Trust from the Neighbourhood Plan steering group, is misleading.

The report says that Nigel Kay, who chairs the steering group, wanted a meeting with the chairmen of both groups, Christopher Wright and Angela Simmons, but that Professor Wright refused. This implies that he was unwilling to discuss the matter. In fact what Professor Wright wanted was an open discussion there and then, with an explanation of the grounds for excluding the groups, rather than a closed meeting on some future date.

Mr Kay refused to allow further discussion at the steering group meeting, and proposed a private meeting, but not until the end of the month (since he said it would require the presence of the Town Clerk, Jackie Westlake, who is on holiday).

The BCA and the Creek Trust felt that the matter could not be left on hold, so Professor Wright invited Mr Kay to meet informally with himself and Mrs Simmons at an earlier date. After several exchanges of emails, Mr Kay notified Professor Wright that he and Councillor John Coulter would be available for a meeting at the Mayor’s Parlour at 8pm on 10 June, and the meeting accordingly took place.

Can Faversham learn from WAMP?

“Councillors are not the only ones who can have good ideas” says a headline In the Faversham Times today (11 June) – and it was a councillor who said it!

The new chairman of the Whitstable Area Member Panel (WAMP), Councillor Neil Barker, is reported as saying that the prefix of “councillor” doesn’t mean “I know better than you” and wants to let members of the public play a more interactive role in council meetings.

“I don’t believe in the ‘them and us’ mentality when it comes to meetings of the council,” he says, and “While the constitution of the council means meetings have to be held in certain ways, I will continue to use chairman’s discretion at WAMP to allow members of the public who take the time to attend to play a full and active role in the proceedings. If I see a hand raised from someone who wants to contribute, I will ask them to speak – be they a councillor or a member of the public … I truly believe we can find solutions if we all work together, throwing ideas around and encouraging fresh ideas.”




The White way to go for the Creek?

Plans for an opening bridge and a working Creek basin, as proposed by the Faversham Creek Trust,  are “unrealistic”, says landowner/developer Michael White, according to the Faversham News (March 6).

A feasible proposal, he suggests, might be “a lock at Chambers Wharf, where funding and grants could be available and produce tremendous advantages to Faversham.” This might, he says, include flood defences for the whole town, a generator on the lock creating electricity, 24-hour access to water in the Creek, a wet habitat for birds, increased housing value and business opportunities. His business, Quayside Properties, would contribute to the funding, along with KCC, Shepherd Neame, BMM Weston and the Environment Agency. Furthermore, he says, “the time frame could be guaranteed, not like the bridge and basin that has been ongoing for years.”

Mr White also hasn’t given up on his plans to use Building No 1 at Standard Quay as a “destination” restaurant plus gallery and function room, despite having lost an appeal against refusal of planning permission. He says he hasn’t completely eliminated maritime use of the Quay: there are still moorings for 15 boats and barges, and four maritime businesses are working there (Faversham Ships, PSB, Masterweld and Faversham Joinery). He says there are 66 people working at the Quay, compared with 5 when he took over. He says he’s “restored and improved” every building that would otherwise have fallen into disrepair.

The paper invites comments on the relative merits of Mr White’s case compared with that of the Faversham Creek Trust.

TIARA for Standard Quay

Following its report on reactions to Swale councillors giving the go-ahead for the Baltic House wine bar, the Faversham News invited contributions to the debate on the future of Standard Quay. This is one of them:

Dear Editor

Your article (Activists’ disgust at council green light for quay bar) unfortunately repeated the description of me as the ‘former owner of Standard Quay’. I can assure you that had I or any of the former directors of Standard Quay (Faversham) Ltd had the opportunity to buy the Quay, we would have done so. Unfortunately, it was bought from under us in 2003 at an inflated price by Quayside Properties (QP) who paid £1.4 million for the whole site (including the the grade II listed Quay buildings, Bus depot and grade 1 listed warehouse).

QP at the time was listed at Companies House as being a company for the development and sale of land. QP issued an immediate notice to quit to the boatyard management company with no negotiation based on a clause in our lease which justified this on the grounds of their intention to redevelop the site. We fought off this threat for the subsequent 8 years refusing to give in to unremitting pressure such as claims for huge rent increases and allegations of neglect of the buildings. QP won one court case against us which argued that the sadly woolly wording of our lease and the smudgy lines on the maps did not allow us to use the Quay land area beyond a very narrow strip alongside the water. Nevertheless, we struggled on at huge legal expense for another year and a half until the end of the lease in summer 2011 when all the buildings were emptied of the boatbuilders, the apprentices, the marine block making and the sail and rigging loft.

Now labelled ‘activists’ and ‘protestors’ I would be grateful if occasionally it could be remembered that before 2011 we were positive contributors to a vibrant Creekside maritime environment at the Quay and demonstrated for eighteen years that There Is Another Realistic Alternative to just becoming yet another town dependent on kitsch and the crumbs dropped from the table of champagne diners. Faversham Creek is a working asset for a working town. Given just a little bit of guts and imagination we could still keep it and stop those who seek to simply profit from what they see as under-priced land ripe for their own gain.

Sue Cooper

If you have something to add to the debate, you can add a comment here or write to the Faversham News (

How to turn Nimbys into Yimbys?

Nimbyism is the result of bad planning decisions, suggests an article in the i newspaper. The example quoted is the crumbling Hammersmith flyover. Instead of going for the obvious and replacing it with a flashy new flyover, Hammersmith proposes a “fly-under” (ie, a tunnel). The costs would be high, the construction work would be disruptive – but it would reunite an area split by traffic and give it back to residents, and at least some of the cost would be recouped by selling off regained land. And, although a big planning initiative like this would be expected to kick off the usual public protests, it has widespread local support.

Planners should learn from this, suggests the writer. Nimbyism should not be written off as a knee-jerk reaction to any new development, whatever it may be. It is “born of the experience that new development is far more likely to benefit the developer (in profit) and the council (in increased revenues) than anyone who actually lives there.” But if a project can be seen to be imaginative and beneficial, it can get the public on-side.

Food for thought?

News round-up

Some stories from the local papers:

Major improvements are planned for the creekside, including a concerted campaign to open up a walkway round the creek, especially the closed section opposite the Weston works. 1

Councillor Mike Henderson is accused of killing creekside business by giving the lead on planning approval for more new homes. But he says: ‘Most developments near the creek will be mixed with a housing element because a waterside environment is attractive to people.’ 2

As a barge arrives to a gala reception at Swan Quay, one of those involved says: “Developers and local councillors appear to see the creek as no more than a muddy stream of no use to the town.” 3

Talking about land behind Standard Quay and Iron Wharf, a local businessman says: “I think very little concern has been given to the natural flood plain … the area has flooded several times since [the major flood of 1953]. These floods are often the result of tidal surges which breach the sea defences. No work has been done to improve sea defences since these floods and, indeed, the situation may well have worsened by the relatively recent improvements in sea defences elsewhere, notably the Thames Barrier.” 4

A letter to the editor comments on Swale Borough Council discussing matters in secret: “Public opinion is not the enemy of democracy – it is the reason for it. If a matter is felt unable to stand up to public scrutiny and debate, it should be clear to any democratically elected representative that it is their duty to ensure that it is not pursued under a veil of secrecy.” 5

A planning consultant highlights the benefits of proposed housing development on the creekside, including “a public promenade beside the creek with some public parking. With access to the creekside, this would be an enhancing feature of the Saxon shoreway walk. The proposals would bring about many long-standing aims of the planning authority for regeneration and improvement of the creekside area.” 6

A campaigner complains about Swale planning sub-committee, saying it seems to have accepted without question a report that is not in the public domain, which claims there is a clear demand for live-and-work accommodation in the town, and welcoming it as an enhancement of the creekside conservation area. 7

The Mayor of Faversham celebrates plans for the creek. “After years of talking about creek improvements, here is a chance to do something positive … the town will be grateful for what has been done for many years to come.” 8

1 1999
2 1997
3 1997
4 1997 (John Cleaver, MD of BMM Weston)
5 1997
6 1997 (Jeanne Taylor, on behalf of Belvedere Road development – whatever happened to that public promenade?)
7 1997
8 1999 (The Mayor was Cllr Chris Perkin).

August 2013: SAME OLD, SAME OLD
Time to start doing things differently?

Dangerous obsessions

In his “Faversham Forward” column in the Faversham News (1 August), Laurence Young, manager of the Faversham Enterprise Partnership under contract to Faversham Town Council, says: “Faversham has its fair share of obsessives who, unsurprisingly, can pursue their causes to the farther shores of Loopydom. It is this that has led me to feel great sympathy for local councillors over the years, particularly when I’ve sat in on meetings where they have been pressured, and occasionally harangued, from the public gallery by purist, self-interested and, indeed, self-righteous members of our various branches of the Tea Cup Tendency.”

Do people think this is fair comment? And does anyone know what the Tea Cup Tendency is?

“Rethink needed”

In the Faversham News (1 August), a report on last week’s Neighbourhood Plan steering group meeting says a rethink is needed on how the group communicates with the public. It quotes Councillor Cosgrove’s comment that “We may well need to think again about how we communicate. I say that because my own view was that the exhibition was helpful but I well understand it was quite complicated.”

Many of the public present at the meeting were unimpressed by the implication that they had failed to understand, and that if only they had, they would have responded differently – with no recognition of the possibility that people understood perfectly well and just didn’t like what they were seeing.

There is a strong feeling that it’s not just the communication of this plan that needs a rethink – it’s the entire content and rationale.

Transparency is not something to begrudge

This is the text of a speech made by minister Eric Pickles to the Local Government Association conference on 3 July:

The other week, we issued a practical guide to the press and public on how they can report, tweet and film council meetings – embracing the digital age, rather than clinging to an analogue interpretation of press access rules.

There is still residual opposition. Monitoring officers say: “Our standing orders prohibit it without 3 days notice” – so change them! … get a better monitoring officer… or just ditch the standing order.

What does it say about the self-confidence of local government that, when you watch an episode of Grand Designs, when it comes to filming the Planning Committee the door normally remains shut?

What does it communicate about our faith in planning officers, and what does it say about the role of councillors in shaping where development should and shouldn’t go?

I want people to see the good work that councils do. The difficult choices, the trade-offs, the debate.

The best thing we can do to get more people involved in local government is open the doors. It can show what armchair auditors are already finding out – local government has plenty to be proud of.

Still in a pickle over council filming

Since local government minister Eric Pickles told councils they should be open to filming, photography, blogging and tweeting, there have been further rows, with members of the public being ejected and councillors calling the police – including one incident in Mr Pickles’ own constituency, one in Cambridgeshire and one in Tower Hamlets. Councils are using the excuse that they have to make changes to their constitutions before they can allow filming, but they’re taking their time about it – the relevant legislation was introduced in September 2012. You have to wonder why, when national parliaments and the London Assembly are filmed, councils are so camera-shy.