AFRAid? Community Champions!

AFRAid? Community Champions!

What is it that lies at the heart of AFRA? It’s simple: people who care about our community, regardless of their politics or personal situation.

AFRA members are all highly active members of the community… so it’s not surprising they get stuck into the issues which really need to be dealt with. At the same time, we also put forward suggestions at a strategic level – the right sort of planning which would eliminate many of these problems before they happen!

Examples of ongoing AFRA campaigns – which tend to get a positive response – working with the District and Town Council and other community groups…..

Licensing review: getting it right in reality

Attitudes to Anti-social behaviour management

Waste management planning and provision

Cycling safely – for cyclists and others

Hi-revving revellers: ‘boy racers’ vs pedestrians

Planting and greening initiatives

Doing Development… decently

Community consultation work

Some of our website visitors may find this report by the New Local (formerly New Local Government) group into community engagement interesting reading.

The Community Paradigm – click to download or read the report

Work in progress

Work in progress

AFRA is continuing as a group to press for a better approach to consultation over the future of the Town.

While welcoming the initiation of some consultation work intended to contribute to the Place Plan, there is more work needed if this is to be a credible exercise. Many individuals have already pointed to many oversights or errors in detail; this highlights some of the problems in the approach used.

We have now added a new page specifically to focus on this important issue: Our Town, our future – click here to connect – and add your views and comments, please!

Our Town, Our Future – it matters

Our Town, Our Future – it matters

For latest information, click here or copy and paste below!
https://www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/folkestoneplaceplan

POST UPDATED 20TH MARCH 2021

In recent weeks, several members and associates of AFRA have been seeking to engage in the consultation on the future of Folkestone Town Centre.
As always, we have taken a constructive position – welcoming the principle and highlighting the importance of this for our town.

Inevitably, some mistakes have been made in the course of this work – we have politely drawn these to the attention of the consultants and the District Council.
We have opened the door to discussions on how to remediate these – our message to key Councillors and the lead consultancy is published below.

  1. We need a transparent consultation which starts and ends with the views and wishes of local people – not just those with influence or possible vested interests.
  2. We need a plan which truly recognises the amenities, assets and community collateral of this wonderful place
  3. We need to respect our heritage and history, which will be a key building block for the future – as visitor attractions, community centres and meeting points.
  4. We need a commitment to building a great future together – with the community and for the community – for Folkestone: Our Town, Our Future.

To: 

Cllr. David Monk and Emily Temperton (We Made That consultancy) 

I am writing, after discussion among AFRA partners, to provide observations on the current consultation concerning Folkestone Town Centre.
If you are not familiar with AFRA, the group is very simply an informal alliance of residents groups, also working with civic groups where we have common interest.  

We take an apolitical and non-partisan stance on issues of shared concern or shared opportunity. The future of the town centre of Folkestone is clearly such an issue, being of real significance for everyone who lives in our community, works in the District or visits the area. The statement attached and this email are being shared with a number of interested parties and will also be shared with our media contacts and posted on our website shortly.

  • We Made That
  • Council lead officers and group leaders for each of the main political parties at Folkestone and Hythe District Council
  • Council lead officers and group leaders for each of the main political parties at Folkestone Town Council
  • A number of our partners and others with an interest in the community consultation process

Firstly, we very much welcome the principle of consultation, given the significance of this work which will play a large part in shaping the town for present and future generations.

Secondly, after some involvement in online sessions which form part of the consultation process, we would wish to put on record a sense of some emerging concerns.
The current consultation process frankly does not seem to be meeting the needs of the community adequately in terms of preparation and research, inclusion of key groups or transparency of process and information access.  There are in fact indications of some regrettable major oversights – which can of course be remedied, but have coloured some of the responses we are aware of – as you will be:

  • The lack of any reference to the impact of CoVid on the community, investment and changes in economic context going forward
  • The omission of significant  aspects of the town’s heritage and character, notably including St Eanswythes Church where you will also find the original Folkestone Town Cross 
  • A seemingly marginal involvement of Folkestone Town Council in this consultation, despite the Town Hall itself being at the epicentre of the area under discussion.
  • The failure to provide a reasonable supply of information in the public domain on the process and progress of this work

There are other matters, which no doubt individuals and other groups will have brought to your attention. As such, we would suggest that the process really now needs urgently to be reviewed.

AFRA seeks as a point of principle to offer constructive criticism and to be part of the solution in looking at opportunities for community development. 

You’ll see that our statement recognises the significance of this work – and hopefully you will understand that these comments are intended to be helpful. We look forward to your response – the AFRA group is currently considering with others the possible need for additional consultation mechanisms.

We would be happy to discuss this further.
With kind regards

Jon O’Connor
AFRA coordinator

15th March 2021

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Our Town, Our voice matters

Folkestone Town Centre regeneration planning

Folkestone and District Council has announced the appointment of We Made That – a consultancy firm which has been commissioned to engage with stakeholders in the development of the plans for the revival of Folkestone Town Centre, at a cost of over £80k.

This is a significant moment for our town – with a coherent approach to CoVid19 recovery urgently needed to take our community forward with confidence.

Cllr David Wimble, Cabinet Member for the District Economy for Folkestone & Hythe District Council, said:

“Although we’re at an early stage the ambition of this Place Plan is very exciting.
Folkestone is brimming with potential and we will do our bit to make sure that we are proactively engaging and using our influence to create a town fit for an extraordinary community that surrounds it.”

AFRA and our member organisations have registered an interest in being involved – as have a number of other groups and individuals.
We’ve heard nothing back so far, so cannot really comment on the consultation approach – as there hasn’t really been any consultation yet.

Given that the contract runs for 6 months from 7 December 2020 to the end of May and will presumably finish with a report in early June it is surprising that so little has been heard in the public domain of this major initiative.

As of today, the Folkestone Town Council website had no information about this key programme .
The District website has no further information to offer.

Watch this space.

Homelessness: a consultation

AFRA is encouraging all Folkestone residents to contribute to the FHDC consultation on meeting the needs of homeless and vulnerable members of the community.

A draft of the Homelessness Prevention Strategy for the next five years (2020 to 2025) has been published and feedback is welcomed until 2 October 2020.

The new plan sets out the council’s three priority areas:

◼️ Ending rough sleeping

◼️ Early intervention, prevention and support

◼️ Ensuring a good supply of affordable and suitable accommodation.

Included among the innovative aims to meet the priorities is the adoption of what is known as a Housing First approach. This provides intensive support for those who have been homeless with the aim of creating a stable home and enabling people to rebuild their lives.

Exploring the possibility of setting up a Social Enterprise Scheme to provide training and employment opportunities is also put forward in the strategy. To do this the council suggests bringing together a working group to include those who have been homeless, business entrepreneurs, council representatives and those from educational establishments.

Within the strategy the council outlines its commitment to building 1,000 new homes for rent and shared ownership between 2025 and 2035. Community Led Housing schemes, in which local people take action to address their own community’s housing needs, are also proposed.

Councillor David Godfrey, F&HDC Cabinet member for Housing, said: “This review of our five year strategy comes at a time when COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the needs of people sleeping rough and of households facing the threat of becoming homeless.

“Our plans look at how we can work with our partners in the voluntary and statutory sectors to intervene even earlier before a household becomes threatened with becoming homeless. We want to identify those in need of support as soon as possible to prevent evictions wherever possible.

“We hope people will take the time to read what we are proposing. Perhaps we may also interest those who would like to be part of our suggested working group and work with the council to prevent and resolve homelessness.”

The Homelessness Act 2002 requires every local authority to review and renew their Homelessness Strategy every five years. Our previous strategy was a joint East Kent Homelessness Prevention Strategy, adopted by Folkestone & Hythe, Canterbury, Dover & Thanet councils and agreed in 2014. 

Over the last few years there has been significant legislative change and welfare reform.  Each council is now focusing on their area’s particular needs and producing strategies which reflect those needs.

The strategy and more information can be found by clicking here.

Community Champions

The idea behind Community Champions was very easy to come up with.

We all know someone who regularly makes your day – just does something or says something habitually which brightens everything up.
They go above and beyond the call of duty or what you might expect: the postman, the grocer, the neighbour…
And in the recent months during the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, these were great people.
They might say that they did nothing special, that they just did their job. But they did more than that.
They all in their different ways made a difference to other peoples lives – and for that, we thank them.

You’ll find their stories in the gallery below.
We hope to have more to share with you, as we pick up recommendations from members of their community and have the pleasure and privilege of saying very simply:

“Thank you for making a difference to everyday life. “

The Community Champions scheme is sponsored by The Woodshed Gallery, a Folkestone small business – and we are grateful to them for their generosity.
We are looking for other sponsors to pick up the baton so that we can carry on appreciating these great people in our community.

Each of our Champions receives a certificate and a voucher towards a meal at one of the L&B group of eating houses:
The Pullman, Lubens Pizza house, The Market Square, The Harbour Inn and their new venture at Tin and Tap.