Neighbourhood Plan: BVM Statement to Parish Council Meeting 17.5.16
We appreciate that the Steering Committee for the Neighbourhood Plan has been working on a second draft following the outcome of the poll among village residents in December.
We would like to take this opportunity, before the new Draft is published, to highlight a few issues that we would expect to have been taken into account in drafting the new plan; also one or two others that we believe deserve serious consideration.
The first is the issue of development in or adjacent to Broadhembury Village. December’s poll among residents decisively rejected disproportionate development as a means of delivering five “affordable” rented houses over the next five years. The Parish Council graciously accepted this verdict and acknowledged that they would have to think again on this matter.
We would therefore expect the new draft to specifically exclude promotion or endorsement of such development in or adjacent to Broadhembury Village. In this context we note that Dougie Allan, using the platform provided to him at the March PC meeting, advocated “sensitive housing development” in or “on the fringe” of the village – with the support of the community. Since the community has already made clear its lack of support, we would not expect to see any endorsement of Mr Allan’s “Vision” for development in or around the village in the new draft plan.
I should emphasise here that BVM is not against the creation of proportionate and sympathetic affordable housing to meet parish needs, either as infill in the village or through conversion of redundant buildings around the village or wider parish. However we cannot lose sight of the fact that most people think of “affordable housing” as an attractive purchase price, whereas the draft PC plan aimed at rented housing. It is important that this distinction is made clear in Parish Council communications, especially the new draft plan.
Turning to other matters:
First, the sustainability of our school. I am sure we are all now aware that Dunkeswell Parish Council has publicly stated that it is not going to build a school. This aspect of the “sustainability” argument for development is thus no longer relevant and should be excluded.
Next, enlargement of the Village Hall car park. Residents were pleased to learn that Ben Andersen, of the Grange, was willing to buy the land and donate it to the community. We look forward to learning details of progress on this generous gesture in the next draft plan.
Thirdly, and given the sensitive nature of the village environment, we believe the Parish needs to be safeguarded from opportunistic strip development between the village and the Honiton-Cullompton road. To this end we would like to see the Conservation Area boundary extended from the village to the main road and we hope the Parish Council will join us in supporting this objective.
And finally, there needs to be proper and timely communication between the Parish Council and residents when the new draft of the Neighbourhood Plan is published. That requires, we propose:
- a prominent announcement on the home page of the PC website
- an email communication to all Parish Council website subscribers
- a simple door drop to all parishioners announcing publication, setting out key proposals, and providing details of how to access the full document
Communications between Parish Council and residents
At the PC meeting on 17.5.16, Council members responded verbally to a letter from BVM which raised issues and proposals for improved communications between the PC and residents. We agreed to publish their formal response, which appears below:
To save time at the Parish Council meeting held on 17th May, I said that we would give you a written and detailed response to your letter to us dated 3rd May, which we also discussed at the PC meeting under the item’ correspondance’.
Your letter, and your verbal comments started with the statement that : ‘ we believe that communications generally between the PC and residents could be improved……’ and you go on to suggest how this might happen. I will respond to your suggestions in the order listed in your letter.
- You claimed that we do not provide advance notice of important proposals or presentations and you cite the neighbourhood plan and the presentation by Mr Allen ( at the PC meeting of 15th March ) as examples. You go on to ask other specific questions.
Answer: we exceed the legal requirement to give notice of public meetings by many days notice on our public notice boards . Quite apart from that we give notice on our web site [ http://www.broadhemburyparishcouncil.org.uk ], We advertise events on twitter and on facebook. When important issues are for debate we do house-to-house mail drops. In addition we produce an E newsletter for subscribers periodically throughout the year on important issues . So far this year we have done one in January 2016 and one in May 2016. In addition we immediately produce a summary of PC proceedings for the Parish magazine or submit articles.
Mr. Allan’s presentation was advertised as an agenda item and we informally notified a prominent member of BVM that he would be attending. The NP was made available, initially on the web, then at your request more widely to every household. We held one special public meeting exclusively to discuss BVM’s , concerns, conducted a survey then set about redrafting the plan.
I totally reject your claim.
- You asked us to ensure that all residents are in receipt of communications.
Answer: we can do no more! Residents who want to receive information can subscribe to our newsletter, talk to their Parish Councillor or write to the Clerk. They might also attend the PC. Despite hand-delivering a summary of the NP to every household, articles in the local press and the Parish magazine, only four people on the Electoral roll returned comments by Email, letter or by completing the form. The local survey of Broadhembury village immediately before Christmas produced only a 60% response rate. So, 40% of people did not care enough, despite the interest generated by BVM to respond. As Chairman I lead a group of unpaid volunteers elected to hold office . I am not willing to ask them to do more.
- You say that ‘many of us…’ have signed up to the E mail subscriber service but ‘ have never received a communication….’
Answer: I am dismayed at your claim. We know from our data that all who have signed up with a current Email address have received and in 70-75% of cases ‘opened’ (to read ) the two newsletters issued this year. One in January 2016 and one this month . When inviting people to subscribe I made an agreement to use the facility infrequently and sparingly on ‘big’ issues ( decided by me). The result is that there will be no more than 4 to 5 editions each year. It will not be used for minutes, as you asked, nor will it be used for agenda or meeting alerts. I consider that these are covered by my response to question 1. I would consider its use for this purpose as trivial and unimportant because it would not deal with the substantive issues people have asked us to address.
4 You say that posting of minutes is ‘patchy and inconsistent.’Answer: we consistently exceed the legal requirement to post agenda 4 days in advance of the meeting. However I have noticed that some of our notices are damaged by rain so we will purchase a laminator for the Clerk to use with future notices. For the record PC meetings are every third Tuesday of every other month in the Memorial Hall starting in January each year and this time-scale will remain indefinably. I doubt if there is a parishioner who does not know this.
- You asked us to audio record meetings..
Answer: we have no plans to do this and my colleagues do not support it.
Finally in the text of your questions you returned to the question concerning the timescale for publication of the next draft of the Neighbourhood plan. It will be published in plenty of time before we hold the next public meeting in September. We will distribute a summary to all households. We will publish the full version on the web with supporting surveys, reports and studies, and again invite readers to contact a Parish Councillor’
On a more general issue I acknowledge and support the right of BVM to question us in a constructive way, and the questions you asked us in this letter and in public meeting are legitimate concerns.
However I would challenge you to point me to a Parish Council of equivalent size, nature and resources which does more. As Chairman I rely solely on the efforts of volunteers who give an enormous amount of unpaid time for the benefit of the wider community. We are not paid politicians. People who are dissatisfied should stand for election as Parish Councillors. The fact is that we struggle to find sufficient people who are willing to stand. Attacks from all sides , coupled with the onerous disclosure requirements make the role of Parish Councilor a very unattractive voluntary activity. Fortunately my colleagues do not take it personally.
I strongly believe, and will defend this belief vigorously, that the Parish is richer for the efforts of my colleagues and the occasional recognition of this would be welcomed.
Question what we do by all means but sometimes thank us for what we do too.
Bob Nelson, Chairman Broadhembury PC