I AM still really puzzled by the reaction of Faversham Town Council to the anger and frustration that has arisen due to the lack of real consultation about the Faversham Creek neighbourhood plan.
A perfectly reasonable question was asked at a council meeting: When huge amounts of money are spent on public consultation, only for the feedback to be completely ignored, and we end up with a plan that offers little but short-term profit for landowners and developers, what does the council expect members of the public to do? Just sit passively and say nothing? And what are people who are not that interested in the creek supposed to think when their money has been wasted like this for no one’s benefit? Money that could have been spent on other desperately needed projects.
It seems to me that the council is trying to distract attention from what has really been happening: a refusal to engage with the community over the neighbourhood plan, to listen to those who have experience and in-depth knowledge of the economic and employment potential of the creek, or to acknowledge that the definition of sustainable development in the national planning policy framework is about more than just housing. Criticism means people are interested and engaged and concerned. Public office means accepting criticism and councillors are not automatically entitled to deference – unless they want to pretend we are in North Korea.
The question remains. There are many of us who accept the benefits of a neighbourhood plan and want to have one, but do not accept the council’s unbending assertion that it has to be this one. We do not believe this is the only possible plan we could have, and we certainly don’t think it’s the best one. There are plenty of alternatives, but they have never been put up for consultation.
So are we supposed to vote for a plan that offers nothing — not even brown envelopes — or campaign for something better?