The TRUST’S RESPONSE TO FAVERSHAM CREEK NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN CONSULTATION June 2013

Faversham Creek, especially its upper section, has long been neglected. But its heritage is deeply embedded in the consciousness of local people, who are looking to the local authorities for a vigorous approach to regenerating the area – an approach that makes good use of its unique qualities and contributes to a sense of place appropriate for a Cinque Port limb which is also one of the heritage highlights of the tidal Thames.

To engage public interest, support and trust in the planning process, we believe that the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan could usefully be strengthened in a number of areas. It should:

● View the creek as a whole, and as an integral and important part of the town and port of Faversham, not as a collection of isolated plots of land.

● Foster a living, working waterway that protects and keeps alive our rich maritime heritage and our Cinque Port status, supports and promotes local enterprise and attracts visitors.

● Make a sustainable contribution to the economy of the town, through a tourism-led regeneration strategy which capitalises on the growing interest in maritime heritage.

● Actively involve the community in process and delivery.

● Protect valued amenities and heritage, and open up opportunities for a wealth of maritime activities and events.

● Preserve and enhance the character of an important conservation area.

● Allow for development which is sustainable and appropriate, and which does not detract from the appeal of the creek as an attractive and distinctive location for residents and visitors.

● Leave an enduring legacy that will become the heritage of future generations.

We believe that Faversham should be approaching this Neighbourhood Plan with greater confidence. Developer pressures and uncertainties over planning legislation cannot be ignored, but benefit to the community and sustainable regeneration must be paramount.

This is a VANGUARD neighbourhood plan. We should not be looking to others to show us the way; Faversham should be taking the lead. With community support, this town can fight for a plan of its own making and set an example for others to follow.

Aspects of the plan which we feel should be strengthened are:

CONSERVATION

The creek neighbourhood is an important conservation area, and the plan should include conservation area character appraisals. Without them, proposed developments may be undeliverable. The Trust already has a detailed appraisal of one key site, and work is in progress on others.

ECONOMIC REGENERATION

The key theme should be regeneration, with an evidence base and an analysis of how the proposals will contribute to Faversham’s economy. A recognition of the tourism strategy recommendation
“to unlock the potential of the working creek” is vital.

ASSETS

From what we have seen, the plan is too focused on maximising land use for housing, for which many creekside sites are inherently unsuitable and for which better sites exist elsewhere. It should capitalise on the unique and irreplaceable value of the creek as an asset for the town, the community and a broad range of stakeholders.

STAKEHOLDER INTERESTS

So far, the process has taken a narrow interpretation of stakeholding, with the interests of housing developers given prioirity. A more inclusive approach is needed, based on a broader definition of who the plan is for.

COMMUNITY

The community needs a plan to get excited about, with a real sense of ownership. To win community buy-in, there must be tangible and enduring community benefits, together with much more active involvement in both the development of the plan and its delivery.

TIMESCALE & FINANCE

Regeneration needs to take place quickly. Waterfront housing will make this difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. The plan appears to rely heavily on developer contributions, which experience shows are slow to arrive and often fail to arrive at all. There are better alternatives.

APPROACH

The approach is defensive – the purpose of the plan most often given is not “to make things better” but “to stop people making them worse”. We need a better, more positive reason than that,

The Trust believes that the primary objective of the Neighbourhood Plan should be sustainable regeneration, and that this can best be achieved by:

● Exploiting the maritime heritage to attract visitors and increase visitor spend throughout the town. ● Creating a maritime enterprise zone with hubs of boatbuilding/repair and associated businesses.

● Developing a cohesive tourism strategy around the creek, with four key elements: Creative, Community, Maritime and Wildlife.

● Providing sustainable jobs and apprenticeships.
● Acting in synergy with existing town centre businesses and attractions. ● Sensitive and attractive development adding value to the whole area.

We believe that further waterfront housing is incompatible with sustainable regeneration because:

● It will prevent the exploitation of the maritime heritage.

● Further development will create a heavily built-up area which is unattractive to both visitors and homebuyers, devaluing not only existing properties but also the new developments themselves.

● Its viability is questionable because of the small size, inaccessibility and inappropriate nature of many sites, conservation area and listed building constraints, flood mitigation requirements, possibility of site contamination, and other factors which will increase build costs, plus flood risk implications for building design, insurability and mortgageability.

● Proposals for ground floor retail/commercial space are speculative, driven by flood risk regulations rather than any evidence of market demand; on the contrary, there is ample evidence that “mixed development” within the same building does not work in this neighbourhood, and it is consistently opposed by local people.

The Neighbourhood Plan could contribute to sustainable regeneration by adopting the following principles:

● No new housing or commercial development on the waterfront or its immediate proximity (“the waterfront zone”). All wharves and quays to be retained as such, and the waterfront zone to be restricted to water-compatible industrial use or public amenity.

● No new buildings of any kind within the waterfront zone, other than low-rise structures associated with maritime industrial use or public amenity.

● New housing development to be confined to higher ground beyond the waterfront zone.

● Provision for visitor accommodation (of which there is a shortage) beyond the waterfront zone.

● Any new developments within the plan area to be small-scale, low-rise and in keeping with the maritime environment, the conservation area and the wishes of the local community.

● Appropriate maritime or related uses for heritage buildings. ● Public access to the waterfront, from land and water.

● Open spaces and natural areas to be retained.

● A clear and unequivocal commitment to a new opening bridge as an enabling factor for regeneration.

This approach would not only bring about economic, social and environmental regeneration; it would also leave Faversham with an enduring legacy:

● A landmark bridge that would be an attraction in its own right.
● A navigable waterway extending right into to the town centre.
● A community boatyard, with public boatshed, workshops and slipway.
● A new maritime heritage museum.
● Creek-based activities and events for residents and visitors.
● Attractive public spaces and events that residents and visitors alike can enjoy. ● Conservation and enhancement of important heritage assets.
● Community cohesion and sense of ownership.

We are confident that this approach is viable and could kick-start regeneration rapidly, taking advantage of existing facilities and a community-based approach to delivery:

● Local organisations, including the Faversham Creek Trust, to pool resources and specialist expertise, working with Kent County Council and Medway Ports to deliver an opening bridge, dredging of the basin and improved sluicing.

● A local conservancy to be formed, to enter agreements for the operation of the bridge and the management of the community boatyard and public moorings.

● Finance to be raised from multiple sources to spread risk, maintain income flow and avoid dependence on developer contributions.

● Community buy-in leading to volunteer action and support.

● If necessary, use of Community Rights legislation, compulsory purchase and heritage protection measures (up to and including World Heritage Site status) to make waterfront sites available for maritime use.

 

The Trust’s comments on individual development sites are:

IRON WHARF
Industrial use (boatyard) as part of the downstream hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

CHAMBERS WHARF
Industrial use (boatyard with slipway) as part of the downstream hub of the marine enterprise zone.

OYSTER BAY HOUSE AND GROUNDS
No development on land to the rear of the house (between footpath and road).

STANDARD QUAY: WATERFRONT ZONE
(including quayside and the complex of buildings closest to the quayside)

Industrial use (boatyard) as part of the downstream hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

STANDARD QUAY: INNER SITE

Monk’s Granary: to be used as an accredited museum (possibly a satellite of an existing museum) specialising in maritime heritage, incorporating Cambria and other collections, and in the Abbey of which this building is the last remaining relic. The museum could also include a café and gift shop.

Standard House and adjacent green sheds: small hotel / visitor accommodation. Scope for some low-rise housing to the rear of the site, facing on to Creek Road.

OIL DEPOT

Waterfront zone: open quayside and moorings, as part of the downstream hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

Low-rise buildings associated with the maritime enterprise zone (eg, offices; toilets/showers and other facilities for boat users).

COACH DEPOT

Waterfront zone: open quayside and moorings, as part of the downstream hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

To the rear: private landscaped car park for Abbey Street residents, with ongoing rental income (this might also enable improved parking arrangements in Abbey Street).

At the northern end of the site: public toilets (with disabled facilities). Behind the car park: improved footpath from Belvedere Road.

FENTIMAN’S YARD

Low-rise housing.

SWAN QUAY / TOWN QUAY

Existing cluster of buildings, slipway and open spaces to be retained as part of conservation area.

Waterfront zone: sailmaking shed and facilities to be retained as midstream/bridge hub of the maritime enterprise zone. Wharf frontage to be managed as a holding point for vessels entering and leaving the basin.

Sensitive modifications to enable the rest of the buildings on both sites to become a “creative quarter”, building on the success of Creek Creative in a more open, flexible, visible and accessible location.

Better facilities for sea scouts.

FORMER FRANK & WHITTOME BUILDINGS (between Belvedere Road and Abbey Street)
Sensitive conversion for residential use, subject to provision of space acceptable to Creek Creative.

PURIFIER BUILDING

Industrial use (boatbuilding and repair) and shipwright apprenticeship centre, as part of the Creek Basin hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

ORDNANCE WHARF

Industrial use / public amenity, as part of the Creek Basin hub of the maritime enterprise zone. Boatyard for community use, with low-rise boatshed to the rear of the site; wharfage and slipway shared by users of Purifier Building and community boatyard. The character of the allotments/Brent Hill area, and views up the hill towards Davington, to be conserved.

BMM WESTON

The plan needs to recognise that this site is operating as an engineering works and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, so its redevelopment cannot be relied on to contribute financially or physically to the regeneration of the creekside in the short to medium term. In the interim, it might be possible to negotiate weekend use of the car park for public parking.

BMM WESTON (car park, waterfront zone)

Creekside walkway and soft banks to be retained.

Reinstatement of wharfage as winter mooring for heritage craft, as part of the Creek Basin hub of the maritime enterprise zone.

Possible longer-term uses:

Boathouses/workshops in the area adjacent to Ordnance Wharf.
Landscaped public car park to relieve growing pressure on Upper/Lower Brents.

BMM WESTON (Upper Site)

Residential use, subject to height restrictions and resolution of access problems. (Realignment of Brent Hill and demolition of the brick walls should not be permitted.)

BMM WESTON (works)
Industrial use / hotel / low-rise housing would be acceptable.

FRONT BRENTS (waterfront, greens, car park)

To be retained as public amenity with natural waterfront.

CRAB ISLAND (and green slopes above)
To be retained as public amenity / natural environment / flood capture zone. Improve walkway/bridge between Crab Island and Front Brents.

UPPER BRENTS INDUSTRIAL ESTATE

Industrial use.

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10 responses to “The TRUST’S RESPONSE TO FAVERSHAM CREEK NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN CONSULTATION June 2013

  1. Vanessa Cackett

    Comprehensive comments that are appropriate for The Creek Trust. My response to the Council was that it was only such organisations that had the knowledge and expertise to usefully comment, would be able to respond to the plan. This response illustrates the point. The general public, though interested, could not be expected to negotiate the minefield that was the process that the Neighbourhood Plan Response mechanism demanded. The Creek Trust have said what I am sure are the views of the majority Faversham residents.

  2. Tony & Liz Sharp

    We agree with everything in this excellent post – is it not possible to add signatures and forward on to the steering committee as a petition?

  3. If only the Creek Neighbourhood Plan had been as industrious, clear sighted, creative, thoughtful and genuine as this. I would have worked my socks off to supporting it and bringing it to fruition, in every way possible. Instead I (and many others) have had to pour energy, time and money into fighting a small minded plan that will destroy not create. Thank you CT for your hope and your vision.

  4. Excellent submission but I see no mention of the bridge (of have I missed something). Peel Ports as the Statutory Harbour Authority – via Port of Sheerness which they own – (and owner of the bridge itself) is legally bound to maintain access to the navigable waterways of the waters within its jurisdiction. The prevarication and weak excuses as to why the bridge remains inoperable should be legally challenged by SBC. Once the basin has silted completely, there can be no argument for maintaining the waterway, that presumably is one reason why Peel are sitting tight.

  5. I agree with this submision. Don Cockrill is 100% correct in saying that the owners of the bridge are responsible for access. They should be challenged by the council and taken to court if necessary. Then moves can be made to remove the silt and bring it back into use.

  6. Chris Marshall

    If Faversham has to have more housing then personally I would prefer it to be around the Creek area than in the green fields on the southern and eastern edges of the town. What is vital however is than such new housing does not add to traffic congestion in the town centre which is bad enough already. Therefore why not allow housing that does not come with the usual parking spaces and garages? These are not necessary when living in the town centre.

    • If the Green Belt remains as the Super Sacred Cow, we will all be doomed to live in overcrowded slums by 2035 when the population hit 73million! and at what price, when scarce building land causes prices to rocket even further away from the reach of ordinary people. Where do you suggest another 10million people are housed!
      This country has perfectly adequate reserves of land, even currently farmed land, or under CAP, set aside but not for your benefit.
      Abbey Street was due to be sacrificed to the 60s building boom; which led to the blight of the soulless high rises in many towns and cities that rapidly became vertical slums. It was saved because wise people understood that that was not the way forward
      No, that sacred cow has to submit as we all have,to the exigency of the times, that with thoughtful planning and design, will add to the amenity of our environment.
      Clinging to the sacred cow is nothing more than woolly intellectual nimbyism… on the other hand, there is always the Recreation Ground……
      My personal view of course, Bob Telford

      • Hilary Whelan

        There is a much wider debate to be had about the UK housing market, housing need, and what to do about it – but let’s not reduce the creek to a greenfield/brownfield (or perhaps that should be “bluefield”) battle zone.
        The number of housing units suggested for sites right on the waterfront is less than 0.5% of Swale Borough Council’s total housing allocation to 2031, which in any case exceeds statutory requirements – and the type of housing that’s being proposed has nothing to do with housing need. These are not affordable family homes; they are clearly conceived as luxury waterside apartments. A significant proportion of properties of this type are typically bought as second homes (Times, 5 July), making no net contribution to the housing stock.
        The sites are also small (whereas Swale’s policy gives priority to sites of 50 units or more) with numerous potential build problems – difficult access, ground problems, flood risk, infrastructure, possible need for decontamination, conservation area and listed building constraints. There’s also the problem of traffic, already mentioned; car-free developments don’t really work except in the centres of large cities with 24-hour public transport, and even then people find sneaky ways around the restrictions.
        For such a small number of units, it wouldn’t be hard to find better sites, where far more useful types of housing could more easily and less destructively be built – but since the waterfront developments are not really necessary in the first place, why do we need alternative sites at all?

  7. If Mr Telford thinks that the answer to housing 70 million people is to build all over valuable farm land how does he propose feeding the population? I am all in favour of the Creek Basin becoming a haven for small maritime trades but it is also desirable to build houses in the centre of Faversham if we are to avoid the sort of horrible suburban sprawl which disfigures so many other English towns. I would think that such building will have to be be mainly around the Creek and everything should be done to ensure that the building design is sensitive and there remains access to the sides of the Creek. Otherwise you run the risk of getting poorly designed and unsympathetically positioned housing.

    By the way I would be interested to hear whether the Creek Trust has made any representations about the re-routing of the public footpath that should be in front of the housing development opposite Standard Quay but which has been diverted aroung it and the Brents Trading Estate.

    • Chris,
      Hilary has covered the issue of the relevance of additional housing on the creekside, more than adequately. It is only for a small number of exclusive high cost houses, irrelevant to the real ‘housing’ issue.

      The wider issue is much more complex but if you look at the numbers, then you may be surprised to find that we cannot meet the demand unless there is natural organic growth where and when it is needed, and where people want to live. The number of HOUSEHOLDS in England alone is projected to rise by 2.25million by 2021; 5.8million by 2033; If anyone believes that they can identify Brownfield or Cram-in sites to satisfy those numbers, without going too vertical, then start buying up whats left quickly, after Tesco and the international speculators, because you will make a fortune from the rocketing land prices; of course this will result in no-one being able to afford to buy the houses so, like Tesco in Sittingbourne, just bank the land and walk away. There is a wasteland in the middle of north Sittingbourne now.

      If we had a shortage of green and pleasant land, we would have a food shortage, but we don’t, even though we do not produce all we use, but that whole issue is muddied by the CAP which is controversial enough on it’s own. However, I believe that we should not be paying farmers to set-aside good farming land. If we do not need it for production, then sell it for better use. [and I do not mean build houses around fields!] but even that would not satisfy the demand for homes.

      You rightly worry about the poor design and unsympathetic positioning on the Creekside, but when did you last look at the quality of some of the more recent developments where the cramming ratio precludes adequate provision for cars, now averaging 2+ per household. Swale tried some social engineering at Iwade using a now discredited policy of trying to force people to use public transport by deliberately providing inadequate space for cars; it cost £2000 a week just to police the social conflict resulting. KCC has raised the cars per household ratio now but it is still inadequate because we refuse to properly accept the car as the transport of choice for most people, if only to get you to the commuter stations.

      We have two options; New Towns or organic growth – what you call sprawl – but what the people of many suburbs regard as ideal.

      But lets admit it, the the Green Belt has become a mantra, to hide behind and avoid the reality; that we have failed to control the population of this country and allowed our density ratio to become one of the highest in EU, apart from Belgium and Holland, so we will have to pay the price.

      So it isn’t that simple in the end. We do not yet understand the huge compromises that we will all have to make soon; up till then we will all fight our nimby corners for fear that we will be over-run if we give way. Perhaps we should place more emphasis on the original definition of sustainable development; “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
      Bob Telford

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