10 October 2015
Dear NPC Chair and Councillors,
cc. Cllr Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE; Neighbourhood Planning Working Group; Paula Coyle
Re.Neighbourhood Planning Consultation – Follow up to NPC Meeting 8 Oct 2015
Thank you for allowing me to present the Neighbourhood Planning Working Group’s (NPWG) analysis of the consultation of Burton at your meeting on 8 October.
Whilst the matter is still fresh in Councillor’s minds, I would like to raise a number of issues which, with timely resolution, could aid the overall consultation process or, at the very least, provide lessons to learn for the future.
During the discussion of this item at the NPC meeting I was dismayed to hear issues aired which might have been resolved much earlier in this process. As a reminder, the NPC was informed of the NPWG’s findings on 15 Dec 2014 (email from Chris Meier to David Pearce, attached). The first iteration of the questionnaire and its explanatory letter was emailed 09 Jan 2015 (Amanda Read to David Pearce, attached).
I refer in particular to the issues raised of consulting the entire Parish (rather than Burton alone) and whether the questionnaire actually achieved the NPC’s brief. The fact that my presentation addressed both matters was completely disregarded by the Councillors. Indeed, when the NPWG’s brief (minutes of NPC meeting 9 Oct 2014, para 9.1 (a)) from which I quoted during my presentation was repeated verbatim during the Councillors’ discussion, I really doubted whether my time was well-spent in attending the meeting at all.
For both questions I have to ask why weren’t appropriate comments/revisions fed into one of the many drafts produced for the NPC’s approval? This document was batted back and forth between the NPWG and the NPC over six months, with ample opportunity for the wording to be amended to everyone’s satisfaction, yet these issues weren’t brought to the fore. The NPC’s prevarication throughout this process makes a mockery of the time and effort of the six members of the NPWG, Paula Coyle’s data analysis, and various members of the Burton Community Association involved in the questionnaire’s delivery and collection. You may now understand why I feel so aggrieved.
As this consultation is now in the public domain, I strongly suggest these questions are resolved as swiftly as possible to avoid the ‘distrust’ and lost ‘traction’ the Planning Advisory Service advises against (Briefing Note on Neighbourhood Area and Neighbourhood Forum Designations, para 2.6). This is an aspect which holds some weight with parishioners; an NP consultee stressing in exasperation “we must ensure something is done with it!”, presumably, based on past experience with the parish plan.
On an ancillary note, during the meeting a Councillor invited comments from people ‘who’ve lived in Burton for a long time’. I’m certain the Councillor meant absolutely no offence by this phrase. Yet offence can be caused by such discriminations. How long does a person need to live in an area before their opinions count? Do we have to be born within the sound of the bells of St Mary’s, perhaps? Or, maybe only those who can trace their Burton lineage back to the times of William the Conqueror will suffice. In the interests of equality and diversity, please agree to treat every member of the community in the same way.
So where does this leave us?
The consultation identified the people of Burton want a Neighbourhood Plan to gain more control in respect of the development of their village. Specifically with regard to:
- the type and size of housing constructed – to be in keeping with the rural character of the village and to make more provision for smaller (2-3 bed) houses;
- Burton’s rate of growth – to be steady and sustainable;
- adequate infrastructure/facilities to support that growth – especially regarding pedestrian safety/footpaths.
Forgive my ignorance, but I simply don’t understand why supporting the people of this parish should be such a problem.
I would be grateful if you could issue paper copies of this note to your colleagues without email.
With kind regards,
 Planning Advisory Service, Local Govt Association: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:fjSOdO3XB10J:www.pas.gov.uk/documents/332612/1099329/Briefing%2Bnote%2Bon%2BNhood%2Barea%2Band%2Bforum%2Bdesignations/17117838-6149-4570-8d52-b263ad6df60a+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk