Transition Town Faversham

From oil dependence to local resilience

Faversham 2020 – What is it?

One of the necessary elements of Transition Towns is working with the local Council. They have such influence that they can’t be ignored in working towards a resilient ,low-carbon future, so when I heard about the Faversham 2020 initiative it seemed a good place to start. It certainly proved to be an eye opener to how council business is conducted. If you want to keep up with the results as they appear, take a look at the Faversham 2020 page http://www.faversham.org/community/faversham-2020.aspx There is a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faversham2020/387074441313256  , good for getting reminders about the next meeting.

The group aims to develop a Faversham Town Action Plan. It will be presented for consideration to Faversham Town Council in the autumn. The group has members from both Conservative and Labour parties, members of the public (anyone can attend the meetings and contribute), and local traders. It’s being coordinated by Alison Eardley from the charity Action for Market Towns and Lawrence Young of Faversham Enterprise Partnership. Helen and I have attended three meetings so far, hoping to influence the outcomes in a Transition Town direction.

The first step was holding a public consultation in the Alexander Centre, where people could add comments on post-it notes to themed display boards headed economy, environment, community, transport. The points raised formed the basis for the subsequent discussion. The sheer amount of feedback (Alison has also approached local schools and community groups) has resulted in a condensing phase. Filtering many ideas into a workable number is a difficult process. Some voices were raised that certain ideas had been tried in the past and not worked well – a comment of weary resignation which did not bode well. We pointed out that an idea can be executed in many ways and can have different outcomes over time, as people and circumstances change. Other idea seemed destined for the bin as they weren’t strictly Faversham Town Council controlled. We stressed the point that the public weren’t interested in who was responsible, just what they wanted done, so that if the future of the town requires Faversham Town Council to work in partnership with another body, or to lobby another branch of government on our behalf it should give an undertaking to do so. The last thing we want is a talking shop where nothing is achieved because it’s all ‘too difficult’ or not ‘our job’. With these two important points aired the subsequent discussions have been more positive. The plan was to organise the feedback into categories and draw up objectives to fulfil them.

The categories were

  • Economic Prosperity
  • Town Centre Regeneration/Environment
  • Quality of Life
  • Integrated Transport
  • Tourism/ Arts/ Culture/ Heritage
  • Business support and services
  • Civic Effectiveness

Helen and I volunteered to take on the task of creating the objective and condensing the feedback for the Integrated Transport section, which covered comments on Parking Strategy, “Green/ Environmental/ sustainable related”, Road Network, Cycling Network, Pedestrian Access, Buses and Rail. I wasn’t sure why the Green… section had been put here, but being late for the meeting meant I had no say in that! The important thing was to make a plan that made sense. The overall objective we came up with was Commission an integrated travel plan for Faversham that enables people to use more than one form of transport easily through their journey, favours cycling and walking as modes of transport, meets the needs of families, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Alison has taken this and the other feedback and created another condensed document, divided into Objectives, Tasks and Mechanisms. It’s quite confusing to see things mixed around like this (many of the documents are available online if you follow the links above) but this repeated feedback cycle allows the ideas to be refined into a form that is suitable for presentation to the full Council for discussion. They have the options of ignoring it or implementing it in part or in whole. I can say that most of the council members attending seem fully behind the idea, which bodes well. I’ve been pleased to see that ideas from those outside the Council are taken seriously, there does seem to be a genuine will to produce a useful Action Plan. We’ll see how it pans out later…

Gary Miller

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