Time to shake more hands

Last week, Councillor Shiel Campbell was appointed the new Mayor of Faversham, and a very popular Mayor she will be, judging by the reception she received, especially for her speech.
In her speech she highlighted three things that she wants to promote in her Mayoral year and the first is reprinted here;

– “to build on and extend the levels of communication and co-operation with town residents and businesses. It is a natural progression of the digital age that we live in that information can be quickly and easily sourced via websites and I would like to see this encouraging more people to come along to the Town Council meetings and take part, in a co-operative, collaborative way. I believe we can get much more done by working together and building bonds. So much more is achieved with a congenial conversation over a coffee than a correspondence clash via the local papers”.

This is especially important for this Trust because we have been in the centre of the debate over the Creek Neighbourhood Plan, along with the Brents Community Association, for the last four years. It could not be avoided.

During this time, we have carried out a policy of avoiding the use of the local press as the forum for debate, and keeping to the principal of constructive discussion; there have been challenging moments, and unfortunately this Trust has inevitably been associated with some of the more unpleasant events, even though they were absolutely outside our jurisdiction.

It was recognised a long time ago that, as Shiel said, much more is achieved over a cup of coffee, so a number of local people with different views in relation to the NP, but agreeing that more open discussion was needed than had been available, decided to meet on an informal basis to do just that.

These meetings were not secret, although they were by invitation, and without agenda, or minutes, but chaired by an acknowledged independent. The dialogue as it was referred to, was free ranging and allowed participants to speak their mind, and debate the issues surrounding the NP; it was not always without passion.

In that respect they were very successful even though there were no specific conclusions that directly affected the very formal NP meetings. How much people’s views were changed is not known but this author’s feeling is that some were; at the very least, people with opposing views were able to walk out smiling, together and not walk on opposite sides of the street.

So now we have a formal opportunity, with support from the Mayor, to mend bridges that were damaged and reach out and openly accept the compromise that the NP will be. It must be approved at Referendum, the consequences otherwise are unthinkable, so we must promote that.

The Trust and its many supporters also have the opportunity to benefit from the Mayor’s decision to make us her principal charity. The good work that has being going on all this time, not always realised by the Town Council and others, should get the recognition that it deserves, and that will go a long way to mending bridges and building new ones.

This Trust accepted the responsibility to raise £125,000 at short notice, in a short timescale, much from the people of the town, as affirmation of our commitment to the future of the Creek. We are all in this together now; Councillors at all levels, local representative groups and businesses; it is time to start shaking more hands.

Bob Telford, Trustee and Board member.

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