Community Trigger: a way of getting action

Community Trigger: a way of getting action

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.
Change the record: listen to our community voice

Change the record: listen to our community voice

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:

And for everyone else – please click here for a listing of your elected representatives – it’s time to tell them what we think and to work together as a community to find a positive future for Folkestone….

1. A statement of intent

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.

Saving Grace: Words of a Feather

Saving Grace: Words of a Feather

Scribblings on yet another injustice, by prose poet Jane Monson.

As we nest, your book-spined walls soak up the rain we’ve made and bring the library to its knees.
We watch from our vantage points, the practised turn of your mild, apologetic faces to the public and announce:
The Seagulls Have Closed the Library: we have tried to reason with the birds, at great expense, but like the local badgers, they keep on returning. Downpipes are blocked with eggs and feathers, and your building, your reading sanctuary, your warm bank and hub, is theirs now.’ 

Look up and this is what we might say, if you’d care to listen: we birds need to nest, you need to read, to have somewhere of value to sit and think; where quiet is encouraged, where silence gathers power.
Birds and books have more in common than this painful, local, but widespread story might suggest. We breed flight; nurture in order to set the next generation free, see things from another viewpoint.
Feathers and pages are not so estranged or at odds. So why tell the story this way? That one has killed the other. That nature is at fault; that the Birds Need Stopping; Seagulls Are Closing Our Libraries; Feathers Are Stealing Our Words. 

Where on earth, we should be asking at this point, do we go from here?
Why not start at the library and work your way slowly up?

Sketch provided by Sylvie Monson
Resident voice: setting up and running an Association

Resident voice: setting up and running an Association

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

  1. Support and advice – please do contact us if you want some help with action needed in your community
  2. Introductions: we can link you up with other groups, local councillors and useful contacts
  3. 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!

How to form an association

Click here for a link to the Peabody Housing guide

Model constitution for a residents’ association

Click here for a model that you can use to build your group’s constitution

AFRA community safety conversation December 3rd

AFRA community safety conversation December 3rd

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.

Thanks to all who attended. A short report is available to download by clicking here

Leas Pavilion Development….

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.

Leas Pavilion development: not a good start.

Leas Pavilion development: not a good start.

Residents living close to the Leas Pavilion have been in touch – putting it mildly.

Many are seething at broken promises about good communication and in particular forewarning of the start of works.
Clear assurances were given at a meeting on 25th June 2021 – a year ago. This was attended by local resident association representatives and no less than three local Councillors: Cllr Danny Brook; Cllr Dylan Jeffries and Cllr Ann Berry.
Categoric assurances were given:

  1. To arrange for FHDC to provide information on the development for local residents (as per 2015 Council commitment to consultation)
  2. To provide key points of contact for any concerns for residents going forward – which would logically include:
    • Ward Councillors
    • Council officers responsible for planning issues
    • KCC Highways point of contact for road and pedestrian management issues
    • Constructor or site manager
  3. To arrange for discussion and a joint or coordinated approach involving all local Ward Councillors and appropriate Council officers.

Last week, site workforce personnel arrived unannounced to undertake preliminary works. Digging machinery and other equipment was put on site and within hours, water appeared to be escaping down the roadway from a leak. Residents asked why not notification had been given as required – and the first telephone complainant found a letter stuffed hastily through their letterbox (but not others in the same block) a few hours later.
Others have referred to their concerns around well-being – with disabled residents being particularly badly affected – and the sheer lack of consideration shown by Council officers and Councillors.

Simply not good enough.

Health Impact Assessments (HIA)

Health Impact Assessments (HIA)

One of our partner organisations has highlighted the obvious and significant impact upon health – physical and mental health – which planning and other aspects of local policy can have on individuals and groups. This has become more obvious to all of us over the last two years, with exceptional restrictions and guidance being put in place for everyone.
The government guidance on the need to undertake HIA as a key element in public policy is clear. It is good practice.

The guidance can be found by clicking here.

In our local context, the absence of good communication between the local authorities and local residents is a potential contributory factor to stress, ill-health and a sense of powerlessness. For those with existing conditions or those who are more vulnerable due to poverty or disabilities, the impact is all the greater.

We invite comment – particularly in the context which has raised the profile of this issue – which relates to the significant amount of major new developments supported by Folkestone and Hythe District Council. The extent to which planning policy and major decisions are underpinned by HIA is of particular public interest.

Update: a series of well-reasoned and well-informed comments have been added on this topic – see below.
A summary document containing some of the key arguments in favour of a Health Impact Assessment has been compiled by a member of the Leas Residents Action Group – which has been pressing for better communication. The document can be downloaded by clicking here