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Local Plan: Letters

Local Plan must be
community-devised

I am writing as a local
minister who is interested in fostering good community relations and also as an
ex-policy planner concerned to see good environmental outcomes.

I was very interested to
receive notification of the Canterbury district preferred option local plan and
I attended and spoke at the Council Overview Committee at the Guildhall on May
13.

In preparation, I read the
draft local plan and all the supporting documents in my spare time. I confess I
fell asleep during at least one of the very many technical reports! However, I
was delighted to read early on: “As a council… we are ambitious and will
do the best for our people”.

Can I graciously suggest that
in order to fulfil that promise, our elected representatives and our public
servants might find it helpful to ask themselves if the draft Local Plan
actually reflects the emphases in the new National Planning Policy Framework
(NPPF) on the need for the Local Plan exercise to be creative, collective and
realistic?

I believe the local plan, which
will run to 2030, should certainly be a “creative” production, as the
NPPF puts it: “finding ways to enhance and improve the places in which we
live our lives”
. It’s good to embrace the future with hope and to be
imaginative.

Let’s allow the Canterbury
City Council policy planners to dream dreams! But at the same time they and
their political masters must not frame policies and proposals in a fashion that
is remote from the populace they serve. The local plan process should
definitely be a “collective” one! In terms of the NPPF again:

“Early and meaningful
engagement and collaboration with neighbourhoods, local organisations and
business is essential. A wide section of the community should be proactively
engaged, so that the local plan. as far as possible, reflects a collective
vision and a set of agreed priorities for the sustainable development of the
area…”

Also, the local plan must be
“realistic” if it is to succeed in terms of maintaining healthy
communities in our district, promoting growth and ensuring sustainability. In
his foreword to the NPPF, Greg Clark, the Minister for Planning, says
“Local plans should be aspirational but also realistic”. They should
address opportunities for development and the environmental implications of
planning choices. They should reflect genuine needs and local concerns.

At this stage, I have some
concerns and misgivings. I’m concerned about the over-reliance on the ancillary
reports produced and testing of possible scenarios carried out by private
consultants. The local plan needs to be community-devised and community-led.
Not simply informing us about what has been prepared for our benefit, but
involving us in the framing of policies and proposals that will directly affect
us.

As I read the draft local
plan, I confess that I fail to even hear consistently the convincing voice of
the professional planners offering coherent advice to us and deduce that they
themselves may be struggling to reconcile the myriad consultant reports that
have been commissioned to underpin the plan.

I’m concerned about the
disconnect between the evidence gathered and the proposals contained in the
draft local plan. The Mori poll of residents says “Don’t use greenfield
sites” and a commissioned study says “Protect and conserve” in
south Canterbury yet the draft local plan says, in effect, “OK to use this
grade 1 agricultural land for development”. Supporting studies highlight
congestion and the urgent need to surmount gridlock in Canterbury yet the draft
local plan proposes a 4,000 home development that will inevitably add to
traffic flows in and around Canterbury city centre!

Can I finish by suggesting
that my fellow residents get ready for the forthcoming consultation exercise by
looking at the draft local plan on the CCC website? Please look at the plan in
the round, thinking about the various and some unique pressures on our
district, as well as noting carefully how it will impact your own
neighbourhood. Do participate fully when the consultation process begins in
mid-June, so that the finished local plan document that goes before the
Planning Inspector will be truly be the Community’s Preferred Option Local
Plan!

The Reverend Paul Wilson,
Whitstable Baptist Church, Middle Wall, Whitstable


Vision of 2031 is a
nightmarish one

Canterbury City Councils’
draft (surely daft?) local plan is a ill-thought out long-term project to make
the district’s over-population and congestion problem many times worse
(“Visions of 2031: are we on right track?”, Times, May 9).

If the Canterbury area is
already suffering from a gridlock and pollution crisis, I dread to imagine what
an extra 15,600 homes will add to this nightmare. Now, on a clear, warm day one
can stand on the hillside at the University of Kent, look down over Canterbury
and view the plainly visible omnipresent smog cloud which envelops our city.

As our population increases
incrementally this current carcinogenic chemical fog will likewise be growing
in size and toxicity every year. By 2031 air pollution is likely to be so
catastrophic that respiratory/cardiovascular illnesses will have reached
epidemic proportions whilst residents and visitors will be forced to wear
particle filtration masks (commonly worn by people working around asbestos) as
a matter of routine.

Canterbury City Council
executives are systematically destroying the district by constantly approving
the uprooting of what remains of our vegetation, house-building we don’t need
and the opening of countless small business-killing chain stores.

My vision of 2031: Paradise
lost

Clive Wilkins-Oppler,
Canterbury

HB Times 23rd May 2013

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