For those who live with the daily stress of unwanted noise, disturbance or angry and violent behaviours on their doorstep, there is a very real impact upon the quality of life. No question about it.
The real question is what you can do about it. AFRA members have got together to look for opportunities to improve things, as far as possible. Nobody is saying that we have found a perfect solution but one of the things that has made a difference is working in partnership.
Working with each other – from a range of political backgrounds and viewpoints – has been a good experience, because we share the love for our town, Folkestone, and we respect each others’ viewpoints or opinions – even where we disagree. By working with our partners at the District Council, the Police and a number of other local agencies, we’ve been able to influence some aspects of the work to help address local problems and support local residents – which is where we came in, of course.
This is a reminder – you may already know about this system – of the Community Trigger arrangement.
Full details can be found here – click for the link – but the gist of it is that if you report issues via this route, a picture builds up of repeated problems which then generate priority for action by the relevant bodies – police, environmental health etc.
Nothing’s perfect, but this seems a very good idea. Let us know if you use it and what your experience is like.
In May, local voters emphatically chose a change of administration at Folkestone and Hythe District Council. Many of the political parties’ manifesto statements referred explicitly to the need for community voice to play a far more significant part in the leadership of Folkestone – demonstrating real change in approach and democratic commitment.
However, we also – all of us – expected and need a clear signal of practical actions: not just a series of photo opportunities, where elected representatives turn up to the opening of an envelope, as they say. Good to be seen out and about. Even better to be seen making a difference. So what do we need to happen, three months in? Here are three suggestions for the new leadership:
In preparing for office, months if not years before the election, all political candidates and groups will have considered strategic priorities for our community: economic; social; planning; regeneration; addressing disadvantage and so on.
It is time to publish a broad Statement of Council Intent….. “these are the issues and priorities we are working on, dealing with.” We were promised a stronger community voice: now it’s time for the Council ‘to put our money where our mouth is…’
2. Revisit The Place Plan
The Council should revisit and revise the Place Plan, in the context of three significant new factors affecting Folkestone:
National economic outlook – reports emerging of a five year downturn
KCC budget and service cutbacks
The Seafront development
The plan should be updated, to priorities the show community assets and other key features and opportunities within our town which were unforgivably overlooked – it should be revised to reflect the new context and to become more appropriately A People Plan
3. Publish an interim local economic strategy
The Council should develop and publish short to medium term economic planning linked to the revised longer term strategy for our community, supporting the Town Centre and addressing inequalities across the town. The outline should be prepared in discussion with community leaders. Soon.
The first thing to say is that AFRA encourages all residents to be activists in their community: to take an interest in the environment, public services, issues of anti-social behaviour. These matters all affect our quality of life – and if you leave it to someone else to do something, then very often nothing ever gets done.
The second point to make is that you can form a group in lots of different ways – we are not prescriptive, because realistically it is wonderful when people voluntarily give up their time to do something positive – in any way that they can. Not everyone loves a committee! Once you do set up a ‘more formal’ group, remember that this sets out the rules, such as annual elections, consulting your members and other matters, including finance. Your reputation is on the line if you don’t abide by these rules – and any poor behaviour or disregard for these rules can also affect your local community.
Formalities and how to go about them….
If you do choose to work with a group, again: there are many different forms. Some of the groups we work with are fully formed and constituted with a set of rules and procedures to help them work together. Others are looser and meet informally, which is actually the model for AFRA itself. This allows us to meet with a wide range of people representing resident voice, from individuals with a passion for a better community to senior politicians and public service managers.
If you do form an Association, the model will rarely go as far as a legal charity or registered company – it is more likely to be similar to other shared interest groups such as sports clubs which generally use a model which is known as an unincorporated (not legally registered) association. There is plenty of guidance out there on the legal side – what we can offer from AFRA is three things
Support and advice – please do contact us if you want some help with action needed in your community
Introductions: we can link you up with other groups, local councillors and useful contacts
Ideas and models: we have included links below to a general introduction by the Peabody Housing charity and a sample of a residents association constitution from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham – with thanks to both organisations.
Whatever your interest in your community, we wish you all the best!
On Saturday December 3rd, the AFRA working group hosted a meeting supported by local police, Councillors, residents associations and the community safety team from Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
The meeting provided an opportunity to review current concerns and issues, to discuss initiatives aimed at reducing the negative impact on quality of life for residents and to renew a commitment to partnership working in the community.
The event was well attended and provided a positive discussion leading to agreed points for further action and development. In simple terms, this is what AFRA is all about: a forum to provide the opportunity to address shared issues through collaboration.
6th October 2022: a local resident’s update on traffic management issues and other matters…
We are beginning to experience the consequences of the decision of FHDC’s Planning Committee, when they consented to the Leas Pavilion development.
Since they came on site, Ant Yapi the construction company, despite the terribly confined space they find themselves working in, have co-operated and communicated with local residents. They have taken on board all the concerns of the local population regarding transport and deliveries, something Highways, FHDC Planning Department, and The Planning Committee (watch the video) certainly did not.
They have come up with the best solution they could and it is now in place. This solution had to go before Highways for consent, now obtained; it took them long enough to agree to something that they must admit is the lesser of lots of evils. Only time will tell.
Time began this morning when, because a motorist parked illegally on the double yellow lines, an Iceland delivery truck could not negotiate the corner into Longford Terrace and had to drive over The Lees Lawns in order to back in to Longford Terrace. Nice big truck ruts over the grass.
The illegally parked car caused the problem. However, having happily given consent to the removal of the parking spaces, despite residents protests (already short of spaces) especially the disabled, this is going to happen. One wonders, how much is the developer paying FHDC to have those spaces taken out?
People are desperate and are having to park further and further away from their homes.
Safety of our residents is paramount. Ant Yapi are aware of this and have done their very best to work with what they have got.
Hopefully this is the first and last incident.
Unfortunately, another truck from Macdonalds could not negotiate the badly parked car and decided to go round the one-way system into Sandgate Road and right in to Cheriton Place and left into Longford Way, going against the 3T limit placed there a good number of years ago because of a cellar under the road and the car park opposite.
This warning sign was dismissed by highways as being irrelevant and dismissed in the consultation. However, lots of concrete appeared to be poured into that corner some weeks ago, and the 3T sign is now given prominence.
Nobody will have failed to notice that a number of major developments are underway in the District. Some argue that this shows progress and investment, which is crucial to regeneration of our town – but at what hidden cost? Local residents living near the historic Leas Pavilion, which was a beautiful heritage venue supported by many outstanding performers, have become increasingly frustrated by poor communication over legitimate concerns relating to the planning, public safety and construction management aspects of this project. We’ve invited them to contribute to a ‘Diary’ of events and progress with this significant building site. Watch this space.
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…..
Some of our website visitors may find this report by the New Local (formerly New Local Government) group into community engagement interesting reading.
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.
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.
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.
We need a plan which truly recognises the amenities, assets and community collateral of this wonderful place
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.
We need a commitment to building a great future together – with the community and for the community – for Folkestone: Our Town, Our Future.
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