Faversham Society Urges Members to Vote Infavour of the Creek Neighbourhood Plan

At its meeting, on 28th March the Board determined the Society’s position on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan in the referendum on May 4th.

Society’s position on the Referendum on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan

The Faversham Society recognises that the development of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan was a difficult process and that the resulting Neighbourhood Plan due to go to a referendum on May 4th is a compromise between many competing interests. The Society broadly supports the Neighbourhood Plan as it stands and recommends that its members vote in favour of it.

The Faversham Society will continue to consider particular development proposals on their merits and to make representations in furtherance of the maintenance of our heritage in accordance with the Society’s objects.

 

 

KCC Draft Freight Action Plan

Letter sent to
Transport Strategy Team,
Planning and Environment Division,
Kent County Council,
Invicta House,
County Hall,
Maidstone,
Kent ME14 1XX

We are responding to your invitation to comment on the draft Freight Action Plan.  What we want to say doesn’t fit into the questionnaire format so would you please accept this letter as our response.

It is not easy for Counties to control lorry movements using the limited powers available to them within the existing legal framework. The KCC Freight Action Plan makes a fair stab at the problem, drawing together a number of measures that have already been implemented and suggesting a couple of new proposals. But they are not very specific: the document is vague on the details and gives no timescales for implementation. I suggest we confine our response to asking questions rather than questioning the aims or the policy as such.

The Society strongly supports the efforts of the KCC to control undesirable lorry movements together with inappropriate overnight lorry parking. The draft Freight Action Plan mentions several measures that are already in place. However, we would like the draft to be clearer on the new ones so we can comment sensibly on what is being proposed. Our main queries are as follows:

1. What is the total capacity of the proposed new network of lorry parks and how does it measure up against existing facilities? Could the Plan say where they are to be located, and what is the timescale for implementation?

2. The Freight Journey Planner will be useful for operators who don’t know the local road network, especially those based overseas. Could the Freight Action Plan please explain whether there is a strategy for promoting its use among operators and how it will work?

3. The Plan refers to a proposed connected/autonomous vehicle control corridor on the A2/M2 corridor. Could the Report please make clear who is implementing the plan and what is the timescale?

4. Could the Plan prioritise new areas for implementing Lorrywatch schemes?

5. Could the Plan please specify what options are available for Faversham, whose core network of medieval streets is particularly vulnerable to the environmental impact of heavy goods traffic?

We look forward to your reply….

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Background

The KCC Freight Action Plan Consultation Draft can be downloaded from the KCC web site at kent.gov.uk/freightactionplan. The Plan aims to reduce the impact of growing road freight traffic on local communities. It has been prepared by KCC staff under the direction of the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport Matthew Balfour. The deadline for responses is 12 March 2017.

What the Plan proposes

There are five main actions, most of which are already taking place. Paraphrased, they are:

1. Tackling the problem of overnight lorry parking

2. Finding a long-term solution to Operation Stack

3. Confining HGV routeing where possible to the strategic road network

4. Protecting local communities by restricting access

5. Planning and development control of potentially harmful freight-generating land uses.

Overnight lorry parking

A survey in September 2016 showed that around 700 lorries are illegally parked overnight on principal roads in Kent. The greatest concentration occurs in Swale around the Port of Sheerness. Ashford Borough Council already issues warning notices and penalty charges for illegal lorry parking, and may clamp frequent offenders. Highways England is proposing an overnight lorry park with 500 spaces at its Operation Stack site.

The Action Plan says the KCC ‘is developing a strategy’ for a network of small lorry parks with suitable facilities for overnight stops. They will be priced so as not to compete unfairly with existing commercial sites. No numbers are quoted, there are no indications of where the sites might be, and there is no indication of the timescale for completion.

Operation Stack

Highways England has created the Operation Stack facility at Stanford West off the M20. It has 3600 spaces. Under extreme conditions this will not be enough and the police will still need to store another 3600 vehicles on the east-bound carriageway of the M20, but the west-bound carriageway will remain clear. In 2015 Dover introduced a smaller scheme on the A20 to protect the Town centre.

The KCC Action Plan supports these initiatives but seems not to propose any further action.

HGV routeing

The Department for Transport is promoting the use of new technology that connects vehicles electronically and allows autonomous (‘hands-off’) control.

The KCC Plan says that a scheme for the A2/M2 corridor is being developed, but does not make clear by whom, or by when.

But the KCC has adopted and developed a Freight Journey Planner on-line mapping tool that can be downloaded from freightgateway.co.uk/kent. It is said to feed into lorry satnavs. The map can be configured to show local height, width and weight restrictions, but not parking controls.

Local communities

In general, there are four ways of deterring lorries from entering sensitive areas unsuitable for heavy vehicles:

– width and height restrictions (on environmental grounds)
– height and weight restrictions (to protect bridges)
– advisory signs (flagging roads that are unsuitable for heavy vehicles – not legally enforceable)
– direction signs (encouraging lorries to use a particular route).

In 2012, KCC launched in collaboration with the police and local communities a Lorrywatch scheme in selected areas. Examples are Smarden, Sandwich and Westerham. Local residents are asked to report instances where lorries violate restrictions to the County’s Freight Officer. Repeated violations can lead to prosecution for UK-based vehicles but not those based overseas. Recently schemes have been added in which the Freight Officer contacts firms whose vehicles have been observed flouting the restrictions, but has no legal powers to enforce them. There is no mention of any scheme, mandatory or otherwise, in Swale.

The Freight Action Plan does not appear to recommend any new schemes under this heading.

Development control

A developer can be required by the KCC to produce a Transport Assessment that identifies potentially adverse impacts of freight movements associated with the scheme together with mitigation measures. KCC monitors applications for HGV operator licences and can object.

The Freight Action Plan does not propose any extension to these measures.

 

 

 

Restaurant at No 1 Standard Quay

The Faversham Society does not support the development of a restaurant in Building 1 of Standard Quay. The Society is disappointed that there is to be further gentrification at Standard Quay and that this important quayside townscape is being developed in the way that it is, the extent of car parking and retail in the areas around these iconic buildings detracts from them.  The development of the restaurant will further detract from the conservation area and an important part of Faversham’s maritime heritage is being lost as the quayside becomes a shopping and café/restaurant area. There are also legitimate concerns about the increasing flow of traffic in Abbey Street and a significant flood risk.

The best use for a conserved building is one as close as possible to its original use. A restaurant is far from that. Both the Society’s Planning Committee and the Board have spent time carefully examining the proposal. We have published the outcome of discussions in the Planning Committee (see below). The Board considered the Planning Committee’s analysis and with regret decided not to object to the planning application. Whilst we see no grounds for rejecting the planning application on planning grounds, and do not wish to see the Council required to pay further compensation to the developer, this does not mean that we support the application.

The Planning Inspector’s Decision in January 2014 rejected Swale’s case except on heritage conservation grounds. He pointed out that the “workmanship and utilitarian nature of the building envelope exemplified by the rough and ready quality of its finishes and internal spaces, all contribute to its special architectural interest and to its historic character as part of the wharf.”[1] The Inspector further pointed to the importance of the building’s “form and finishes  …which evokes the long history of the quay..”[2]

The Inspector expressed concern that in order to turn the building into a restaurant, the overall nature of the building would change and that “the overall nature of the building and of the conservation area would be significantly damaged.” The Swale Conservation Officer has secured detailed specifications, in the Heritage Statement, on the internal form and finishing and the Board consequently saw no grounds for rejecting the application.  The focus now shifts to compliance with the conditions placed on the planning permission.

The Society has invited Swale Planners and Enforcement Officers to a members’ evening in the Fleur Hall on February 16th at 19:30. We shall be discussing the Council’s approach to planning compliance and enforcement and we shall be pressing the Council to ensure that all the details so carefully defined in the application will be enforced.  In our view conditions should be attached to the decision – if the decision is to allow the application – and those conditions should be detailed, robust and enforced.

The Society  will object where we can identify planning grounds, once the planning permission passes the issue is compliance.  This may be an example where planning has secured good design – the proof will be in the degree of compliance. If the restaurant were to fail there may well be an application for change of use or further gentrification. The Society will remain vigilant.

The Planning Committee’s report accepted by the Board can be found here

[1] Para 8

[2] Para 10

 

Comments on Bearing Fruits

Two matters are central to our response:

First, the implications of new housing allocations on matters that were already of concern to the Society when we responded previously in August 2016; those concerns are further exacerbated by the new allocations.

Second, the pace of recent and current change in Faversham, which means that new information is now available to augment the Faversham Society’s previous submission. For example, the decision of Swale BC’s Joint Transportation Board to implement innovative measures in the form of a 20mph default speed limit across Faversham and the wider Borough is, we believe, highly relevant. In a similar vein, the Faversham Society’s proposal for a Faversham Neighbourhood Plan, with associated transport strategy and conservation area appraisals, is an example of robust and locally meaningful infrastructure planning that the modified Plan is currently missing.

You can read our full response here

Request for a second Neighbourhood Plan in Faversham

Dear Shiel,

We have had some discussions in the Environment Committee and at the Board about Neighbourhood Plans and I was asked by the Board, at its last meeting, to write to you and suggest that Faversham needs another Neighbourhood Plan.

Early in 2017 the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan will go to the referendum and be passed with a good majority – we know of no organisation or significant individual likely to oppose the plan at the referendum. The passing of the plan and its subsequent implementation will increase confidence in the town.

There are a number of initiatives underway in the town – your Future Faversham Forum, the Twenty’s Plenty campaign and the Faversham Society’s traffic management initiative – which could find coherence through the neighbourhood planning process. An additional neighbourhood plan could address traffic, design, pedestrian access, heritage and conservation issues, and a host of other planning issues in a coherent way.

We have all learnt a great deal from the experience of the Creek NP. The Society has considerable expertise in the Board and there is enthusiastic support from us for a Town Council initiative under your leadership.

I have not suggested any delineation of the new plan area as we believe that this should be determined through a consultation process led by FTC, although we would very much like to be part of those discussions.

The Society hopes that you will be sufficiently interested in this proposal to take it forward under your leadership – for our part we will offer as much support as we are able.

 

Yours sincerely

Harold Goodwin,

Chair of the Faversham Society

26th October 2016

GROWTH WITHOUT GRIDLOCK

A report of the meeting held on 07 October 2016 in the Assembly Rooms

The purpose of the meeting was to bring to the attention of our members the Kent County Council’s recently published Local Transport Plan LTP4 and to seek their views on transport problems in the Town as an aid to formulating the Society’s response to the Plan.  It was organised by members of the Environment Committee and chaired by Hilary Whelan.

Around 50 people attended the meeting, including the organisers and committee members.  All were invited to complete a questionnaire on their travel habits (the results have not yet been analysed).  The meeting began with a video showing an interview recorded in 2013 with Arthur Percival, in which he described how the Society had previously campaigned against the KCC plan to build a ring road in the Town.  There followed a break-out session in which attendees jotted down their concerns about transport in Faversham today on ‘post-it’ notes, and Brenda Chester read some of them out.  Then Chris Wright gave a presentation summarising the contents of the current plan and its implications for the Town.  The key points are set out in the Appendix to this report.  There followed a lively discussion.

An analysis of the post-it notes revealed two stark conclusions.  First, those who attended the meeting want to make life easier for the motorist.  I divided the subject matter into a handful of main categories (road improvements, parking, cycling & walking, environment, planning, and ‘other’) and it was striking how the largest number of responses (about a quarter) fell into the category of road improvements.  People were greatly exercised about Brenley Corner, the possibility of a new link to the M2, better parking facilities, and the conversion of busy streets into one-way working.

Second, our attendees were less concerned about environmental issues than I expected, in particular, how traffic growth might affect our medieval street frontage and the quality of the environment as a civilised place in which to walk about.  Only one post-it note mentioned architectural heritage.  It seems the Society will need to work hard to alert members to the dangers inherent in a Local Transport Plan that will do little to protect Faversham and towns like it for future generations.

In addition to the key points made during the presentation, the Appendix lists some suggestions that the Board might like to use as a starting point for the Society’s response to the KCC.

Chris Wright

14 October 2016

 

APPENDIX

Key points in Chris Wright’s presentation

  1. The Plan is strategic rather than local, with the emphasis on the main transport corridors between London and the Channel ports together with pinch points on other parts of the County road network. The main ‘local’ areas are the Thames Gateway and East Kent.
  1. But Faversham isn’t mentioned, and residents in all areas want to see how the growth will affect them.
  1. Like many other towns, Faversham is under pressure to provide more land for housing in the surrounding area. During the last few months, the total number of housing units with outline planning permission has escalated to about 1800.  The consequences will be far-reaching.
  1. It is well known that peripheral housing development has a disproportionate effect on road traffic mileage. Residents in outlying areas must travel further to achieve their ends and are more likely to travel by car than those living near the centre.  Consequently, each peripheral housing development generates disproportionately more car mileage per household and puts disproportionately more pressure on the existing road network.

 

  1. Traffic growth is not a steady progression. When the flow along a street approaches capacity the queues start to grow rapidly and delays multiply, so that in a relatively short time, a small percentage increase can lead to unacceptable levels of congestion.  On some arterial streets such as West Street and The Mall, queues often tailback along the whole street during peak periods.

 

  1. But compared with many towns in Kent, Faversham’s traffic congestion is currently on a small scale. It’s not the delays that are the problem, it’s the fact that pedestrians view motorised traffic as intimidating and dangerous.  The perceived safety risk discourages walking and encourages more people to use their cars for short journeys, which in turn leads to a greater increase in the level of traffic – a vicious circle that during the less enlightened decades of the 1960s through to the 1990s damaged many other towns in Britain.  Road traffic can easily reduce a place to a non-place.

 

  1. The damage is usually irreversible. Faversham is a medieval market town whose backbone is formed from three conservation areas whose streets and housing frontage were not designed to cope with year-on-year increases in motor traffic at current levels. Vehicle queues are occurring on narrow streets with houses fronting the carriageway, many dating from the fifteenth century or earlier.  Congestion brings noise, vibration from heavy vehicles, dirt, and atmospheric pollution together with a significant risk to health.  In the longer term it can lead to schemes that are out of sympathy with their surroundings: an epidemic of traffic signs, road markings, pedestrian guard rails, and traffic signals in an attempt to ease traffic flow.  Ironically, one of the main aims of the KCC Plan is to protect the environment (see under Outcome 4: enhanced environment).  But it is weak on heritage.

 

  1. The Town needs a coherent plan for coping with traffic demand before matters get out of hand. This will call for solutions at the local level.  The Plan acknowledges that there is a problem.  For example, in relation to the Dartford area it admits that ‘a significant modal shift is needed to accommodate the projected growth’, meaning that people must switch from car to other forms of transport.  But it doesn’t say how they will be persuaded to do this.

 

Some suggested solutions

 

  1. The fundamental aim of the Plan, to deliver growth, is misguided, especially for heritage towns like Faversham. It is not the business of a transport plan to deliver growth per se.  It should be to deliver a quality of life for residents.
  1. In addition, the Plan could usefully feature conservation as an objective in its own right.
  1. To achieve quality-of-life and conservation objectives the Plan should list specific policies and schemes that manage levels of vehicular traffic through measures that naturally encourage people to shift from car usage to other modes of transport that are less damaging to the environment and more beneficial to public health and the local economy.
  1. Effective solutions start with a better knowledge base: a review of the traffic likely to arise from future housing development. The Plan should require housing developers, as a condition for planning permission, to assess the impact of their proposals cumulatively across all housing developments.  They should submit (a) systematic forecasts for traffic growth across the network as a whole, (b) an assessment of the resulting economic, environmental and health impact, and (c) alternative policies and plans for dealing with it.
  1. Practical measures for Faversham include:

– lower speed limits (Twenty’s Plenty) to reduce (unintended) intimidation by moving vehicles through noise and accident risk that creates an atmosphere hostile to walkers

– working with schools to promote walking to school

– environmentally friendly cycle routes and pedestrian routes that encourage people to walk and cycle from outlying estates into the Town, with special attention to the pedestrian routes over the railway yard

– more effective parking enforcement to protect the street environment and to ensure that the regulations don’t fall into disrepute

– higher parking tariffs

– Park-and-Walk, Park-and-Cycle.

Wall Murals in St Mary of Charity – Binski Lecture

Fav St Tho 1 -22a copy

Professor Paul Binski, Professor of the History of Medieval Art and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, lectured on the history and significance of the wall paintings presently obscured by the organ in St Mary of Charity. Paul Binski’s lecture attracted between three and four hundred people.

Listen to Paul Binski’s lecture

Paul rates the wall paintings, which date to about 1300 as amongst the best 10 in the country. The rare surviving mediaeval column was dated to between 1240 and 1260 by Paul Binski.

There is more about the church here http://builttoinspire.org/inspiring/

The lecture was jointly organised by the Faversham Society and the PCC

The church was listed Grade 1 in 1950

The Society’s Submission on Bearing Fruits

The Board has discussed in detail the latest version of Swale Borough Council’s Development Plan. The Society has expressed it concern about the impact of the increased housing allocations on traffic and the historic fabric of Faversham.

The Society’s submission is available here Faversham Society Evidence on Bearing Fruits