On the evening of the 24th July I attended the 16th meeting of the Committee charged with the responsibility of defining Dartmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan.
Before I relate the events of the meeting I will summarise the views of Dartmouth Business News:
- Dartmouth Town Council do not appear to have a clear understanding of the importance of this Neighbourhood Plan. There has been a time lapse since commencement of three years. One result is that this meeting still focused on process, rather than content of the Neighbourhood Plan
- Our District Councillors Hilary Bastone and Jonathan Hawkins must publicly offer their full encouragement to DTC, and make it clear that they will endorse the content of our Neighbourhood Plan at District level. They also need to help convince all Councillors that the Plan is an important step for the Town Council in defining the future direction of the town.
- The Chairman of the Dartmouth Council Cllr Richard Cook, who is also now Chairman of the Neighbourhood Plan group, will, I believe, now impress the importance of this process on Councillors and set clear terms of reference and deadlines for its completion.
- Only then can the residents of Dartmouth be persuaded to participate in this process and make a positive contribution to its delivery. past projects have failed to achieve their objectives and this deters residents from participating in projects like this.
I stress again that this is just the opinion of Dartmouth Business News, it is not criticism, it is a constructive attempt to try and make the process reach a positive conclusion for Dartmouth. I hope Councillors will accept these comments in the manner they are intended. All too often my attempts to offer support and help have been interpreted as criticism.
I would summarise the meeting as follows: bear in mind this is not the official minutes from the meeting.
- Apologies for absence
- Election of Chairman
- Arrangements for secretarial support for the group
- Report by Cllr Fyson on the public questionnaire
- The future of the working group
- The future of the topic groups
- Minutes of the last meeting
- Date of next meeting
2. There were two nominations for Chairman and after an extended discussion a vote was taken. The result was that the Mayor Richard Cook will take over the Chair from Tony Fyson.
3. The arrangements for secretarial support were partially resolved with Peter Shaw volunteering to take the minutes of subsequent meetings. The issue of other support services was left in abeyance.
4. Tony Fyson gave an extended presentation on the process of carrying out the questionnaire which had 600 respondents, and presented some of the results in a text form. Members were invited to comment and the general concensus was that the questionnaire was not well suited for its purpose. It was suggested that professional help might have been desirable as the design of questionnaires is a challenging task. There was also some concern that the results had been analysed manually without any use of computer support. A task for which the group was very grateful but at the same time thought should be streamlined.
The conclusion to the survey was a list of the priority items which residents wanted the Neighbourhood Plan to focus on. However the list of subjects was 17 items long and it is clearly impractical to form 17 working groups. Cllr Fyson proposed 10 groups as below, but it was decided that the Town Council will establish a maximum of 5 or 6 subject areas and invite residents of the town to join whichever group they have a special interest in.
Proposed groups for discussion:
5. It was agreed that the town council will decide a reduced group structure. Volunteers from the public will be sought by various means including advertising in the Chronicle, through the Council website and using the circulation of both the Chamber of Trade and Dartmouth Business News. The selection of Chairmen for these groups will be deferred until the groups hold their first meetings. Each group will then decide who will Chair their activities. The groups will be given clear terms of reference and deadlines will be set for the submission of their conclusions.
7. Previously circulated
8. Next meeting Monday 16th October at 6pm in the Clifton Room.
Dartmouth Business News expects to participate in the Neighbourhood Planning process from now on and we will undertake to keep our readers informed of progress with this project.