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

The proposed changes to ZF5 on the Creek-side

It seems that the plans to re-route ZF5 are likely to be debated again shortly and that the Society will be invoked in support of one side or another.

The Society’s position has not changed. The Society has not considered the revised plans. We do not have sufficient information to discuss the plans and to  support or oppose the proposal.

The Brick Buildings by the Swing Bridge

BrickSwingAt its Board meeting on 16th August the future of the two brick buildings beside the swing bridge.

We believe that the two buildings are late 19th century and have in the past been used as shelter for bridge workers and users, storing tools, etc.  They do not include any operating machinery. We understand there is no intention to demolish the larger white rendered building on the NE side of the road, which houses the control mechanism.

Although the bridge structure and associated buildings can be considered to make a positive contribution to the conservation area, it is inevitable that there will have to be changes to accommodate a new bridge, and these two buildings are not major features. They are not listed, nor are they mentioned in the Faversham Conservation Area Character Appraisal (2004) or in the Undesignated Heritage Assets paper (co-authored by Anne Salmon) which was submitted as part of the evidence base for the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan. They are not mentioned by Arthur Percival in his History of Faversham Creek. While they have some intrinsic value for their historical and architectural relationship with the bridge, their loss would, in our view, cause less than substantial harm and this would be outweighed by the very significant public benefit of a new bridge.

The Faversham Society therefore considers that, on the basis of the evidence available, there are no compelling reasons to object on conservation grounds to the removal of these two buildings, provided that a full record of their ‘standing archaeology’ is made before and during demolition, and this record is made publicly available.

We look forward to seeing the proposed bridge design, and may have further comments at that stage.

The brick buildings by the swing bridge

At the Swing Bridge  Steering Group meeting yesterday the question of whether to demolish or preserve the brick sheds by the bridge was discussed. It was suggested that the Board of Trustees of the Faversham Society should be asked to express an opinion.

This will be considered at the next meeting of the Environment Committee and then at the August meeting of the Board of Trustees. Until the Board decides the Society’s position on this any views expressed by Board Trustees are made in a personal capacity only.

Background

The buildings are not listed or mentioned in the Conservation Area Character Appraisal (see below).
“4.11. The steel road bridge across the creek dates from 1976 but is set onto older, more interesting, abutments of brick and stone. Hydraulic accumulators and a hand operated pump of 1878 still provide the means for lifting the bridge off its seatings, but the last vessel to pass through here was in 1993. The release of water through the sluices is still the all-important means of cleansing the navigational channel, but with the head of the creek steadily silting up the reducing volume of available water makes the flushing action progressively less effective. This crossing point, with its panoramic views up and down the creek, its sluice gates and its old brick and stone abutments, continues to be a place of special appeal.”

Harold Goodwin elected chair of the Society for 2016-17

Last night at the Faversham Society AGM attended by just short of 100 people Harold Goodwin was elected Chair of the Society for 2016-17

I accept the responsibility with a suitable degree of trepidation.

Within 24 hours of discovering Faversham in October 1976 I had resolved to make it my home, Jack Harris had taken me to The Sun, introduced me as a friend and asked that I be treated as a local. I understand and appreciate that those of us for whom Faversham is our adopted home can never be truly local – we weren’t born or schooled here.

I have now  lived here for nearly 40 years and treasure all the things that make Faversham special and, I would argue, unique – the town and port, the marshes and the creek, its spirit and its history. I have been employed across East Kent, in London, Greenwich, Leeds and Manchester – but I have lived here continuously in the same square half mile in the heart of Faversham and always worked from here.

When I ran an adult education programme here I met Arthur Percival though Dorothy and along with others I encouraged him to teach – I regret that none of us thought to video his lectures. We forgot that heritage needs to be conserved. Dorothy recently shared with me one of Arthur’s drafts of our motto: “Sense the presence of the past, share the warmth of the present, savour the promise of the future.” Indeed, the warmth of the present and the promise of future…..

I joined the Faversham Society Board two years ago, urged by Arthur to do so. For forty years I have enjoyed so many things that are special about Faversham, we owe many of them to those who founded the Society and fought for our heritage. I felt that it was time for me to contribute to the Society rather than to take for granted the work of others. Over the last two years, under Michael’s leadership, the structure and procedures of the Society have been much reformed and the Environment Committee has been established and begun its work.

Our new Mayor has initiated the Faversham Future Forum, the “ 20’s Plenty” campaign is making headway, Bearing Fruits is being consulted on this summer and the referendum on the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan will be held in the autumn. The Society needs to be actively engaged across these agendas and the Board needs to engage with its members to determine and promulgate our collective view. The Society’s view is never likely to accord entirely with the views of any one member or trustee. I shall always be careful to distinguish between my view and that of the Society – I shall expect other trustees to do the same.

I have talked with many of the volunteers about engaging people in Faversham and the surrounding villages about what we want to conserve for our children and grandchildren – and we should ask the children too what they value about their home town. In the autumn we are organising, jointly with St Mary of Charity, a public lecture about the important wall paintings currently behind the organ (October 4th) and a members evening with James Freeman and Simon Algar to discuss what our planners can do to assist with the conservation of our heritage. (September 14th)

I look forward to my time as Chair of one of Faversham’s most important institutions.

You can find out more about Harold Goodwin at www.haroldgoodwin.info

An invitation to members to nominate possible Local Green Spaces

Are there green spaces in Faversham that members would like to see protected from development?

Within Local Plans, it is possible to protect areas of land from development by designating them as Local Green Spaces. These are areas that are important to a community (eg, sports or recreation grounds, allotments, open spaces in a built-up area) which are not already protected in some other way (eg, as town or village greens). They can be in private or public ownership.

In the draft Swale Local Plan, only one area in Faversham was listed as a Local Green Space (Woodland at the Knole and stream). At the Inspector’s hearing at the end of 2015, several representatives from Faversham and elsewhere complained that communities had not been asked to submit suggestions for Local Green Spaces. The Inspector accepted the criticisms and said that the process should be revisited.

This means there is an opportunity for more areas to be put forward for consideration as part of the revision of the Swale Local Plan. The Society is considering whether there are any spaces we should propose, and we would be interested in hearing from any member who would like to nominate an open space that they think should be protected. Please tell us by 15 April at the latest where it is – marked on a map if possible – and also who owns it, if you know.

Alternatively, you can make nominations directly to Swale Borough Council directly – see http://www.swale.gov.uk/nominate-local-green-spaces/ for more details.

Bearing Fruits – the Inspector’s Interim Report

The Faversham Society welcomes the final report on the Inspector’s interim findings on the Swale Local Plan. We are pleased to see that, although housing targets have been increased from 540 to 776 per year, the much higher numbers demanded by some developers have not been accepted.

We are also pleased that the Inspector acknowledges the distinctive character of Faversham, and has confirmed the soundness of the plan’s two-area settlement strategy, with higher levels of development in the former Thames Gateway area and more modest development in Faversham and rural areas.

We are however concerned about the effect of any new developments on traffic in and around the town, and have written to Kent County Council to call for a road traffic plan for Faversham. We note that the impact of the higher housing target has yet to be tested against highway infrastructure models.

The Inspector says that Swale Borough Council has undertaken to prepare a heritage strategy, which she considers necessary to ensure that heritage policies are soundly based and consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework. I have written to Swale Borough Council to ask that the Society should be closely involved in the development of the heritage strategy.

YELLOW LINES IN FAVERSHAM TOWN CENTRE

YELLOW LINES IN FAVERSHAM TOWN CENTRE

Submission from the Faversham Society to the Public Realm Group of Faversham Town Council

There are concerns about parking around the Guildhall, and calls for yellow lines to be painted. The Faversham Society does not endorse the use of yellow lines anywhere in the town centre. In our view, they not only disfigure a heritage area, but are ineffective – people park on them regardless – and cause more problems than they solve.

The purpose of the yellow lines was to support the evening economy by allowing parking in the town centre. However, a lot of the space is being used for long-term and overnight parking, limiting the space available for customers of evening businesses – and, in particular, making it difficult for Blue Badge holders to find a space, especially in Preston Street.

It is questionable whether evening on-street parking is needed at all, except for Blue Badge holders, since the car parks are free in the evenings, have plenty of space, and are a very short distance away. Traders to whom we have spoken did not see the necessity for yellow lines, for this reason. The entire town centre could be made a no-parking zone, day and night.

However, there is a case for allowing brief parking during the daytime to enable quick shopping (eg, newsagents), visiting the bank, and dropping off and collecting bulky items. This would also benefit takeaways, daytime and evening. A reasonable period might be 20 minutes (this would tie in with a 20mph speed limit and be easy to remember). Those needing longer stays would be able to use the car parks, as now.

There is also a case for having reasonably-priced parking for business owners (eg, those who currently park around the Guildhall) in nearby car parks.

We ask the Town Council to vary the Traffic Order for the town centre (bounded by the Court Street and East Street entrances and the junction of Preston Street with Stone Street), such  that either:

  1. The entire area would be a no-parking zone at all times.

or

  1. Parking would be permitted at all times for a maximum of 20 minutes.

In either case, Blue Badge holders would still be permitted to park for a maximum of 3 hours.

Both of these options would need only signs at the entrances. All yellow lines could be removed, as the parking regulations would be consistent throughout the area.

We also ask the council to discuss with Swale Borough Council whether reduced-cost car park permits could be made available for town centre traders.