Category Archives: Uncategorized

Creek Consortium sets September meeting date

From the Faversham Creek Consortium page on the Swale Borough Council website:

“The AGM which was due to take place on 31 March 2015 had to be postponed because the interest was such that the room booked at the Alexander Centre, based on last year’s attendance, wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone who came to the meeting. The Consortium’s Management Group apologises to all those who came along to the meeting for the inconvenience this caused.

“Subsequently, a motion was received to dissolve the Consortium and to hold a special meeting for the purpose.  The Management Group had itself been intending to propose the dissolution of the Group later in the year since, with the drafting of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan and with most of the funds secured to build a new swing bridge, most of the Consortium’s original aims are nearing completion.  The Management Group is therefore consulting the appointing bodies and proposes to hold a special meeting to dissolve the Consortium at 7pm on Thursday 3 September 2015 in the Assembly Rooms.”

Neighbourhood Plan update at Local Engagement Forum

An update by Swale Borough Council on what’s happening with the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood plan is on the agenda for the Faversham Local Engagement Forum, to be held at the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre, 11 Preston Street, on TUESDAY 9 JUNE.

Other items on the agenda are housing development in Faversham and local health services provision.

After presentations by Swale Borough Council and the NHS South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group, there will be opportunities for questions from members of the public and informal discussion. More details here.

 

SEA says plan OK – but HRA says no

The long-awaited Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan has at last made an appearance – though it took a Freedom of Information request to get it released, and it is not the final version; there are apparently still some ‘typos’ to be corrected.

Under European law, an SEA is required for a neighbourhood plan when initial ‘screening’ indicates that the plan may have significant environmental effects (in this context, environmental does not just refer to the natural environment, but includes broader issues such as social and cultural). Since Swale Borough Council had determined as long ago as 2008 that a development plan for the Faversham Creek area would require an SEA, and had drawn up a ‘scoping’ document saying what the SEA should evaluate, it was a legal requirement for the Neighbourhood Plan to have one.

The government’s Planning Practice Guidance explains the process and shows (para 033) how the SEA should be prepared alongside the plan, so that the environmental impact of different options can be compared and used to inform the development of the plan. The SEA, along with a non-technical summary, is then to be put out to consultation alongside the draft plan. In practice, the SEA played no part in the development of the plan, and it is not clear how its production five months after publication, and with no consultation, fits into this process.

There is no comparison of the relative environmental impact of alternative options for individual sites or areas. The only ‘reasonable alternatives’ considered are those put forward at the first consultation in 2012: all housing, all employment, or mixed – plus a fourth (‘Maximising housing and employment numbers’) which is said to have been one of the options in the consultation, but was not.

Can these seriously be considered as the ‘reasonable alternatives’? Virtually every land use development plan contains a mix of uses; the true options are what, where and how much – that is the whole point of having a plan.

In setting out (Section 12) the Town Council’s reasons for its ‘preferred approach’ in the face of public opposition, the report asserts that the public unreasonably wanted ONLY industrial use for boatbuilding and repair and the exclusion of ALL residential use, and that this would not have been sustainable. This is, to put it politely, a gross misrepresentation, given that alternatives were repeatedly put forward that included a variety of land uses, including residential and other forms of employment, but with a different distribution, and the council chose not to consider them.

The opening paragraph of the report states that it was commissioned by Swale Borough Council in support of the Neighbourhood Plan – ie, a post-hoc justification of the finished product, rather than an evaluation of the least environmentally-damaging options. Not surprisingly, given this brief, it manages to identify positive effects for the plan against many criteria. Some of the  claims made are questionable (eg, that the ‘proposed use’ of Iron Wharf as a boatyard would have a ‘significant positive effect’ on employment and skills – this seems unlikely, since it is already a boatyard, and keeping it as a boatyard would be neither positive nor negative).

What this document cannot do is determine whether a different set of policies and land use distribution would have been more or less beneficial.

Buried in the middle of the report (Section 16.1.2), however, is the information that a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) – a separate document, also legally required because of the potential impact on the Swale SPA and Ramsar site – says the plan as it stands would have negative environmental effects, and recommends amendments that would be needed to mitigate these effects. The SEA concludes that unless and until these recommendations are accepted and incorporated, the Neighbourhood Plan would have a significant NEGATIVE effect on biodiversity.

The recommendations are not known since the HRA report has not been made public.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creek Consortium: dis-appointing?

The secretary and chair of the Faversham Creek Consortium have excused themselves from writing to ordinary members who signed a resolution to dissolve, and from paying room hire for a meeting to vote on the resolution, on the grounds that the Consortium has no funding.

This is what it says about funding in the constitution: “The running expenses of the Consortium and the Management Group will be provided by contributions from the Appointing Bodies (subject to agreement) and other donations that may be received from time to time. The amount of the contributions from the Appointing Bodies shall be agreed at the start of each financial year.”

It goes on to say that the monies will be held on behalf of the Consortium by Swale Borough Council, and that a report on annual income and expenditure shall be submitted for approval at each Annual General Meeting.

Why has none of this been done? Can anyone remember having seen a financial report at an AGM? There is certainly no mention of one in the minutes for 2012, 2013 or 2014.

The Appointing Bodies, which each appoint one member of the management group, are Swale Borough Council (Mike Cosgrove), Faversham Town Council (Nigel Kay) and Faversham Municipal Charities (Andrew Osborne). All the other members of the group are elected or co-opted.

If the Appointing Bodies are appointing members, should they not be providing funding? If they are not providing funding, should they be entitled to appoint members? Who is appointing these three people, and where are the appointments minuted? Or are they appointing themselves, year after year?

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.

 

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.