Only the main seating in the church was full at last night’s public meeting to “update the village on the Neighbourhood Plan”. The choir stalls were empty and silent. It felt more like a church service than the calls for action that we’ve had in the past.
The reduced attendance probably reflected the fact that there isn’t very much new to say. Imperial haven’t published their masterplan. The developers of Wye 1 and Wye 2 (and of the cycle path) are still in the pre-planning phase. The organisers of the Neighbourhood Plan are busy amassing evidence.
This, for me, was the main point of the meeting. Councillor Shoults explained how decisions in the Neighbourhood Plan had to be backed up by evidence, and he specified which evidence was going to be most effective in combatting over-development of the village:
- the Rural Economic Assessment which has been commissioned by Ashford Council to look at all villages in the area but which will focus on Wye because of its existing shops and businesses
- the Traffic survey which has been commissioned for the Neighbourhood Planning Group by Councillor Mansfield. This will model different scenarios (building of Wye 1, Wye 2, Wye 3, M20 junction 10a etc…)
- the Kent Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty management plan. The AONB status is similar to that of a National Park and the fact that Wye lies within the AONB and has now contributed to the management plan is highly significant.
Councillor Shoults also asked anyone to suggest other lines of enquiry for the Neighbourhood Plan Planning Group (NPPG). It would be no good, he said, if the Neighbourhood Plan got as far as the referendum, only for people to say “Oh! You’ve missed out such-and-such!”
In this regard, my feeling is that the NPPG are doing a great job focusing on combatting and influencing possible development in the village – which is unarguably the most important aspect of the plan.
However, the plan is also an opportunity to identify other priorities for the village and it is perhaps up to the rest of us to support it by forming consensus on these other things.
With that in mind, I have called a meeting this evening of representatives of groups connected to the environment (Ground Force, Wye Community Farm, Allotments etc) to see if we can establish some agreement on environmental objectives. (Please contact me if you’d like to attend.)
Then on Wednesday I will be at a meeting of the Patient Participation Group where we will be discussing possible development of Wye Surgery in the light of the government’s heath reforms.
I will report back the content of both meetings to the Neighbourhood Planning Group. (And hopefully on this blog as well.)