Democracy Inaction

November 22, 2016

Green Party Hythe Town Councillor, Ashley Tanton, is underwhelmed by the council’s response to the hugely important Shepway Places and Policies Local Plan consultation, a document that will shape development in the district for many years to come.

“With the closing of Shepway’s Places and Policies consultation, I thought it would be a good time to write and provide an update on my attempt to contribute to the Hythe Town Council’s response.

It was decided that the manner in which the Council responds to the consultation would be determined by the Plans & Works Committee at their meeting on November 1st 2016. The committee meets several times a month and always at 9.30am.

In that meeting, it was determined that the response of the Council as a whole would be delegated to three councillors: Keith Miles, Alan Ewart-James and myself. The three of us were to meet at a later date to assemble a response on behalf of the Council.

Whilst the working group was formed on the 1st, it was not until the 14th that I was contacted with three potential opportunities to meet. Whilst it would have been better to meet sooner, I was happy at least to have the opportunity to contribute.

The meeting was proposed by the Town Clerk for the 15th at 7.30am, the 16th at 7.30am or the 16th at 4.45pm. Of these options, because of the short notice, I would only have been available after work on the 16th. The meeting was subsequently arranged for the 15th at 7.30am since all three of us were not available at any one time.

The meeting took place and later that day, I receive draft copy of the response. Having sent the other members of the group detailed comments the night before their meeting, I find myself completely underwhelmed with what would later evolve to become the official response of the Council.

It wasn’t clear whether my comments had in any way informed the response so I felt my only option was to disassociate myself from the response, opting instead to publish my comments independently of the Council.

The Plans & Works meeting took place 25 days after the consultation opened. The working group met 39 days after the consultation opened and just 6 days before it closed.

If members took that time to review the consultation, to speak to their residents, to consider the potential cumulative impact of the proposals on the town, then surely that would be born out in the detail of the response.

The official response of the Council amounts to fewer than 400 words. So 400 words to assess the likely impact of an additional 880 homes in the Town. This piece you are reading now is 565 words.

I am extremely disappointed by the lack of detail in the response assembled by 2 out of 16 councillors and I have submitted my original comments to the planning policy team – you can read them on the portal website.

Shepway Green Party has also submitted a detailed response to the two parts of the consultation (development sites and policies), making it the only local political party to have done so, at least via the portal (it is possible that others have submitted responses in email form that are not yet visible).

Proposals of such significance warrant a significant response and in my view Hythe Town Council has missed a great opportunity to shape our town in the future.”

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