Category Archives: Governance

Council votes against the future

Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, Faversham Town Council has voted this evening against the creation of a Strategic Planning Committee. Such a group would have helped the town plan for its future.

The idea of the Strategic Planning Committee was not to replace any existing function of the Town Council’s Planning Committee – a fact lost on Cllr Mulhern, who gave a bizarre speech claiming just the opposite. He must not have read or perhaps understood Cllr Martin’s briefing note, which could not have been clearer.

This vote marks another sad day in the life of a council that is looking increasingly out of its depth.

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Faversham – a town under attack from within

The great appeal of Faversham – to those of us born here as well as those of us who have chosen to make this our home – is both its immense historic beauty and its wonderful people.

Yet both Faversham’s good looks and culture are under attack – and, however unwittingly, this town council is leading the charge:

– defacing Faversham’s historic landscape with yellow lines

– removing benches so we have nowhere to rest and to talk to each other

– proposing to replace a pedestrian friendly zebra crossing with a car friendly pelican crossing

talking about banning cyclists.

What evidence is there that any of this is needed? What real evidence exists? And what kind of a town will be created if all of this happens?

I was, as you might imagine, most disappointed to read in the minutes of its last meeting that the Public Realm Group wishes to paint yellow lines around the Guildhall. As one of Faversham’s most important buildings, the consequence of this action will be highly damaging. The proximity of the yellow lines to the plaque that honours the valour of Sir Philip Neame will create additional visual harm. 

This matters. People love Faversham for its historic beauty. They spend their money here when they have a choice to go elsewhere because they like the look of the place and they enjoy the social experience. They encourage other visitors to do the same. Our economy relies on our good looks.

When, as a result of my intervention, it was agreed in 2014 not to paint the lines around the Guildhall, I was given the reassurance by Brian Planner at Swale BC that the impact of the lines would be carefully monitored. Can you therefore tell me:

1. What studies have been undertaken and what evidence have these generated to describe the effects that the lines have had on parking behaviour in central Faversham?

2. Where is this evidence documented?

3. How has this evidence been used to reach the conclusion that more yellow lines should be painted?

I see many unfortunate things in my job and I try not to be shocked but this situation troubles me greatly. To encircle the Guildhall with municipal yellow lines is to twist the knife in a wound that was created when yellow lines were first painted last year and repainted earlier this year.

These lines are a scar on Faversham’s historic beauty. This episode casts the actions of Faversham Town Council in a poor light. 

The lines are not needed. People don’t observe them. The police say they would prefer not to have them. The suggestion that emergency services can’t access all sides of the building simply does not stand up to the briefest of conversations with a firefighter. 

In town and in the outside world I am sorry to report that Faversham’s actions have drawn enormous criticism. Painting yellow lines has been opposed by people both locally and internationally. It has been described variously as “crude and destructive”, “degrading”, “defacing” – and as “bureaucratic vandalism” – not only by people in the streets of this town but by former presidents of the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Academy of Urbanism. These people know what they are talking about.

Imagine a doctor telling you that you have serious health issues. High cholesterol. Poor circulation. That these are treatable if you change your lifestyle. But fatal if you don’t. What would you do?

So it is with the design of Faversham’s town centre. The social and economic health of the town is threatened. So why does the Town Council continue to pursue this brutal course of action? Why won’t it listen? Why won’t it engage with people who are experts in their field and who are telling it that it need to change its tack? Why won’t it listen to the thousands of local voices who don’t want yellow lines? Why did it only listen to a few who said they did?

And, at last, the Faversham Society has shown its colours in opposition to yellow lines.

If councillors believe what they are doing is in the public good then they are deceiving not only themselves but the people of this town that they represent. 

I urge town councillors and members of the Public Realm Group to look to their consciences and ask whether the paltry consultation exercise that was undertaken when the yellow lines were first proposed stands any test of rigour, especially in the light of the overwhelming opposition to the yellow lines that was revealed during the campaign that I have led during the last two years.

On that basis alone can the council or anyone it represents have confidence that these other measure coming forward are in the town’s best interests?

I ask the Town Council not to approve the recommendations of the Public Realm Group and, instead, to direct that group back to the drawing board in pursuit of common sense and the general good of this great town. 

The future of Faversham Creek

Address to the Faversham Creek Trust event on board SB Repertor – speaking notes

Tim Stonor
2nd September 2015

Good evening. It is an honour to have been asked to speak this evening and I’m grateful to Lady Sondes, Sir David Melville and Chris Wright for their invitation. As I prepared for this evening I wondered if I had ever given a talk on the water. I thought I hadn’t and then I remembered I once spoke at a conference on board a cruise ship between Genoa and Marseille. I’m pleased to say I’d trade the crystal waters of the Côte D’Azur for the muds of the Côte de North Kent any day. 

We are lucky to be here and lucky to be part of Faversham. Simon Foster mentioned the work I’m involved in that’s looking at the UK 50 years from now. This may seem like a long time but it’s a drop in the ocean/Creek for Faversham. Here we have at least 9,000 years of continuous human habitation. There aren’t many other places in the UK that can claim this. In fact we don’t yet know of any that can.

And why did people first come here and then stick around for so long? It’s the Creek. First for the hunting: its game, its fish and its fowl. Then for its waterborne trade. We are one tide from London, where merchants could poise offshore, like greyhounds in the trap, waiting for fire signals from London to tell them their stock prices were high enough to catch the next tide in.

This place is important. This water is important. Many of us feel this viscerally. Others still need persuading. How can we do that?

I have seven thoughts. Continue reading The future of Faversham Creek

A Planning Committee for Faversham Town Council

In public contributions at this evening’s Faversham Town Council meeting, Gulliver Immink suggested the Council forms a Planning Committee to better inform itself on development applications across the town before they come to the Council for decision. At present the Council considers complex applications one by one, in short order and without the opportunity to digest the multitude of issues they raise, not least the way that one application impacts on others and on the existing town. A Planning Committee would help to prepare the ground for Council meetings, analysing applications alongside each other so that a picture of Faversham could be formed in the round.

In response, Councillor Simmons said that he didn’t think such a committee would save anyone any time in making a decision. But surely this isn’t just about saving time – it’s about getting it right.

And perhaps a Planning Committee might indeed save time. Time spent at the early stages of the planning process can pay dividends through more effective public consultation, a stronger influence on planning proposals and, as a result, a better long term outcome for the town.

Faversham – divided town of kings? Or, Faversham – disappeared town of kings?

The Local Government Boundary Commission is carrying out an electoral review of Kent County Council. Radical changes are proposed for Faversham.

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In the current situation, the “Faversham Division” closely matches the urban footprint of the town. This can be seen in the green line that encircles Faversham in the map above. The Faversham Division is then surrounded by the “Swale East Division”, an entirely rural division.

The proposals create a new division, named “Mid Swale”, which stretches from the edges of Sittingbourne in the west to the middle of Faversham in the east. Mid Swale therefore includes all of Faversham’s Priory Ward  and St Ann’s Ward and the western part of Watling Ward.

“Swale East” is reduced in overall size but extended to take in Faversham’s Abbey Ward and the eastern part of Watling Ward.

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Faversham therefore sits across – is divided by – two divisions: Mid Swale and Swale East. Note – there’s no mention of Faversham in either of these names. Faversham has disappeared as a Kent County division.

Electoral boundaries can be read as a symbol of urban status. Zoom out and look at the current situation:

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Faversham can clearly be seen  in the upper middle part of this image, sitting among a network of urban settlements, including Sittingbourne, Canterbury, Deal and Ashford.

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Now take a look at the proposals: Sittingbourne, Canterbury (modified), Deal and Ashford are still there. But where’s Faversham?

What does this say about the town’s status? It’s certainly not a promotion.

The divided town of kings has disappeared.

What do you think about the proposals? To have your say, please visit the Local Government Boundary Commission website.

The Faversham Conversation is also running a poll on the proposals. Please vote below: