The Canterbury Society – Campaign for Local Democracy

See below for information about a meeting on the 5th February organised by the Canterbury Society

CAMPAIGN FOR LOCAL DEMOCRACY: SHOULD WE CHANGE THE GOVERNANCE SYSTEM IN THE CANTERBURY DISTRICT?

Invitation to a meeting
This is an invitation to an important meeting which is taking place at 7.30 pm on Wednesday 5th February. It is going to all residents’ groups and parish councils in the area, and we hope you will pass the invitation on to your members.

The meeting is being organised by the Canterbury Society on behalf of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District, which is a broad coalition of local groups concerned about the current way of running the Council.

Why is the meeting taking place?
There are two main ways in which Councils can work. Canterbury City Council has what is called a ‘Strong Leader and Executive’ system. This was adopted in 2002 when the government of the day made all councils choose between this and an elected Mayor. The aim was greater efficiency, but in practice it seemed to some residents that many decisions were being made by a small group of councillors without wider consultation.

The present government, in the Localism Act of 2011, gave councils the option of changing to another way of working, the ‘Committee System’. In this the Council forms a number of committees, each responsible for a particular area of interest. The committees make recommendations to the Council and more councillors are involved in making each decision. Some councils in other parts of the UK have already chosen to adopt the committee system.

What will happen at the meeting?
The meeting on 5 February will provide an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of the two systems and to decide on future action. Speakers will include:
Richard King, former Chair of Kent County Council, who will discuss the options
Individuals who will present the case for the Executive and the Committee systems

The public discussion at this meeting will inform the views of the committee of the Campaign for Democracy in the Canterbury District. If there is support for change, this group will lead in organising a petition and a referendum to find out what system the residents of the Canterbury area would like.

When and where?
The meeting will take place at 7.30 pm at the United Reformed Church Hall in Watling Street in Canterbury (note change of venue from earlier publicity). So do come along to express your opinions and to hear what others think. Refreshments will be provided and everyone will be very welcome.

Meet our Police Commissioner Anne Barnes – 27th November

Please note that we have an additional meeting this month which will be held on 27th November at The Community College, Belle Vue Road, starting at 7:15pm.

We have arranged for Anne Barnes, Kent Police Commissioner to speak and take questions. The meeting will be open to the public, hence the change from our normal venue of The Castle.

This meeting is open to all, the venue has a large seating capacity and is on the ground floor. It will be an opportunity to raise any relevant questions or concerns that you may have relating to policing issues.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Stream Walk Community Garden Open Day

The Stream Walk Community Garden Open Day is taking place this Saturday, the 19th October 2013, from 12-4pm.

There will be produce on sale and a woodcarver amongst other activities and it will give the public a chance to see what the garden is all about and meet those involved.

They also have a Facebook page – Stream walk community garden Whitstable. (Bear and Alan were our speakers at last nights members meeting).

Dog Control Orders

Dog Control Orders: the WS has submitted this request

‘We request that the dog control order is extended to the end of Tankerton Promenade where the promenade exits through the sea wall near the Continental Hotel; so dogs in the season are banned from the beach there and must be on a lead on the promenade.

This section is as busy if not more so that the middle section currently covered by the dog control order with large numbers of people(often picnicking), cyclists and especially children playing who are most vulnerable to being frightened by dogs’ beach activity and affected by their waste products: the deposit of which on the shingle is inevitable from some off-lead dogs . The western section also has the approaches to The Street where dogs are antithetical to the use of this famous attraction.

The dog control area ends where it currently does at the western end for no logical reason other than , we are told by officials, that this was the point at which the area ends for which the Council was seeking a beach award.

Dog walkers go from the road highway at the Continental to a non-control dog area and then into a control area with similar requirements to the road highway. Confusing.

West of the Continental, the beach becomes utilitarian with water craft landing and launching and no promenade. This is an area where dogs can be given more freedom for their swims and frolics on the beach itself without disturbing people for that beach is hardly used for the rest and recreation that typifies Tankerton Slopes promenade and beach. Dog owners can also take their dogs to the eastern end of Tankerton Slope’s promenade. Given the length of typical dog walk, a walk will likely take in one or both of such non-dog control areas.

Foreshore and CCC highways departments advise that they support extending the dog control area as proposed. In the case of highways, they consider dogs off leads are not consistent with a pedestrians/cyclist track (ie the promenade) especially when busy. Indeed the creation of an official 24/7 shared track increases the strength of argument for extension of the dog control order over the short western part not currently covered.’

Conduct of Meetings Regarding Interests

At this weeks meeting on Wednesday 19th June 2013 the topic is the Draft Local Plan.

In the light of events at recent meetings in Canterbury relating to the Plan, we draw to the attention of all members and other attendees of our meeting the following code of conduct.

Conduct of Meetings Regarding Interests

Meetings or parts of meetings on any planning matters are held to uphold the interests of Whitstable, whether development affects and/or can be seen by large or a small numbers of people (the objective). Meetings to decide policy must not be dominated by speeches from one lobbying group to the exclusion of contrary or middle-ground viewpoints; especially. On pecuniary matters, the WS is not authorised to hold court for the interests of property owners re matters which simply affect the value of that property or for landowners or developers unless they are invited to speak to aid the overall objective (eg by explaining advantage for Whitstable).

Pecuniary Interests.

  1. When a member or other person asks a question of a guest, makes a comment or otherwise contributes in discussion during a WS meeting on any matter, they will reveal any pecuniary interest. It is entirely in the discretion of the officer chairing that meeting or part of the meeting whether or not that person will be heard or continue to be heard.
  2. If members are advised in advance that a meeting will be covering a topic or area of interest, a member should seek advance permission to speak about anything in which they hold a pecuniary interest.

Other Interests.

If it becomes clear that a meeting is packed by people from one lobby group, the chair of the meeting reserves the right to halt contributions from people from one point of view so as to ensure fairness to other speakers wishing to make their views clear; just as effort is made to ensure less forward contributors get the chance to air their views.

We expect members to advise if they are personally affected by an issue (eg a development may block a view from a garden, a non-planning argument) as this may bias their views. It should be noted however that the WS does assist where development affects the interests of one or more people if there is unfair/unbalanced planning process/practice involved (eg a commercial unit threatens to take away light from a garden). This is consistent with our objectives and role as Official Planning Consultee for Whitstable.

Beach Hut Pricing

A note on the determination of beach hut prices on sites rented from the Council

It has been said that the price of beach huts is just a market outcome and nothing to do with the Council. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The cost of a new beach hut is no more than £2000: even for the fanciest. When someone buys a beach hut for £10,000, they are not buying just the hut in their perception. They are buying primarily what they think is the right to rent the site from the Council in perpetuity (and indeed to pass on that right to their heirs) and the right to sell-on this ‘right’ in perpetuity : as that is the way things are run at present.

The excess of the market price of about £8000 over the cost of building a hut is caused exclusively by the practice of permitting existing annual license holders to have the Foreshore Office transfer the annual licence to anyone who the present lessee chooses automatically (ie to the person prepared to pay £10,000). The license clearly states that any transfer is subject to the approval of the Council and therefore the Department of Community Services has every legal right to restrict transfers in any way it chooses.

It is therefore the Council that is causing the high price of huts on Council owned land for the simple reason that if transfers were banned, there would be no market for the ‘right’ to rent in perpetuity. In such a case, all surrendered leases would be allocated to people in a queue or through some other mechanism determined by Councillors and owners of the wooden huts could sell the structures to the new license holders. The Council also has an indirect effect on the value of huts on private land (such as West Beach) according to the level of rent charged for council sites.

The practice of permitting lessees to request officers to transfer the annually renewable licences to anyone automatically side steps any queuing system the Council may have in place. As the price has rocketed, the effect of present policy is to effectively steer by auction council hut sites to people from outside the District, as most local people cannot afford such high prices.

A market could still operate, but probably at much lower prices, if transfers were limited to new license holders from the District or, if a long lease system (eg 10 years) were adopted, the sale and purchase on the residual period on such leases.

A revamp of the whole system is a political decision, but whatever is done must be considered in the realisation that it is Council policy, in today’s market, that has a large influence on the price at which huts on Council sites are sold or indeed if there is market for anything other than the hut itself.

Programme of Events & Membership Card 2013-2014

All members of the Society should shortly be receiving their Membership Cards for 2013 and if we have your email address you should already have received an electronic version.

The programme of Events for 2013-2014 has been finalised and is printed on the card – it can also be seen on the Events Tab of this website.

New members always welcome – see the Membership Page for details of how to join.

KFAS AGM – Saturday 18th May

The Whitstable Society is a member of the Kent Federation of Amenity Societies (KFAS) and all members have been invited to their AGM and a tour of Rochester organised by the Rochester Society. In the words of KFAS Chairman John Walker:
…the KFAS AGM and Woolford Lecture on Saturday 18th May at The Visitor Information Center, 95 High Street, Rochester, ME1 1LX. starting at 10am.
There is a good choice of excellent restaurants and pubs in the High Street for lunch after the meeting.

The Woolford Lecture will be delivered by Griff Rhys Jones, the well known actor, writer and TV Presenter who is also President of Civic Voice, the national organisation for Civic Societies in England.

Griff is starting a four day tour of Kent on Wednesday 15th May to promote the activities of Civic Societies in the county in his role as President of Civic Voice.

The tour will culminate at the KFAS AGM where Griff will deliver the 3rd Annual Woolford Lecture. As everyone will know from his TV programmes Griff is passionate about the built environment and about the role civic societies can play in protecting and enhancing our villages, towns and cities. His talks are always interesting, informative and entertaining so this is a great opportunity to meet Griff in person and discus matters of common interest.

The AGM is of course free of charge but we would ask for a small donation to cover the costs of the room hire for the Woolford Lecture

We very much hope you will support this meeting by attending on behalf of your civic society and would be grateful if you could confirm your attendance by telephoning our Hon. Secretary Crispin Davis on 01303 237831 or by email at crispinandsue.davies@talktalk.net