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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
15th March 2021