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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From Field to Fork: Faversham

The Campaign to Protect Rural have just published a fantastic report ‘From Field to Fork: Faversham’ about the local food web of Faversham.

The report is a heartening read; there is so much to be proud of within the town and surrounding area!

Key Facts about Faversham’s Local Food:

  • Local food is abundant and accessible in Faversham – there is a huge amount of food grown locally to Faversham.
  • There is a strong public demand for local food. 39 outlets out of 58 sell local food in Faversham. Annual sales of local food are estimated at £1.2-2.8 million!
  • Local food supports local jobs. The report estimates that about 160 jobs are supported by the sales of local food in the Faversham area. In addition to this there are a further 250 jobs supported at the suppliers.
  • Food contributes to the character and identity of our town. People are proud of Faversham’s local produce.
  • The quality and freshness of local food is the main reason people buy local food. People also like the personal service they receive from local businesses.
  • Local food strengthens our community. When people shop at local food businesses they talk to the producers. They also talk to people they know or neighbours whilst in town shopping locally.
  • The town is aware of its local farming heritage and so local food contributes to a sense of community and belonging. 
  •  Local food businesses use other local businesses – local hardware shops, local solicitors, local accountants etc.
  • Local food businesses have a strong commitment to saving energy and reducing waste. There is often less packaging and waste from local food businesses.

It is great to see so many local shops, producers and residents featured or named in the report. Transition Town Faversham are proud to note that many of our members volunteered to be interviewed for this project and many of them were also featured in the case studies of the report. We would like to draw particular attention to Bridget Neame and her month of eating locally featured on Pages 10 and 25 of the report. The Group is also delighted to be featured as a case study in itself on Page 9 of the report. You can find out more about our Food Group here. Looking to the future, the report gives recommendations to different groups within the town. These are summarised below.

Key Recommendations:

Swale Borough Council should ensure strong and effective local planning policies are in place to:

  • Maintain and strengthen Faversham’s retail diversity through a clear ‘town centre first’ approach to develop the vitality and vibrancy of the centre.
  • Ensure the need for new retail space is objectively assessed using independent evidence.
  • Set an appropriate size threshold for new stores above which they will be assessed for their impact on the town centre, on the economy of the rural area and on local food production.
  • Support the growth of new local food outlets such as the farmer’s market, the community gardening and the allotments.

 The public sector, including local councils, schools, and hospitals, should buy more sustainable local produce.

Local food business should work together to:

  • Improve the marketing of local food so shoppers can identify local food and understand its benefits.  The follwing would help: trying to overcome perceptions that shopping at local food businesses costs more, offering more information on who produced the food, where and how, holding local food tastings and events, developing ‘local’ brands.
  • Explore and support local food initiatives to reduce costs and increase access to local food, such as co-operating to form a local food distribution hub. 

The community should (we all should!):

  • Shop widely to encourage a variety of local businesses and local food. 
  • Buy local food through local shops, markets and delivery schemes.
  • Ask where the food we buy comes from and how it’s produced.
  • Contact local planners and councillors to encourage them to support local food businesses. Start by sending them a copy of this report and asking them how they intend to use it!

Transition Town Faversham supports the findings of the report. We also think it is a fascinating and overwhelmingly positive report about our town. We urge you all to read it and follow the recommendations! You can find the full report here.

If you would like to share your thoughts on the report, please comment on this blog post.

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