Shoreham Beach neighbourhood forum hits back at ‘five years of incompetence’ claims
The group was officially designated in late 2014 to progress a neighbourhood plan for the area, but this expired in November.
After it applied to Adur District Council for redesignation, several residents raised concerns during a public consultation.
At a meeting on Tuesday (July 7), there were even harsher words from senior elected representatives who decided to defer a decision.
The two main concerns appeared to be a high turnover of personnel at the top of the forum and a perceived lack of activity over the last three years.
David Simmons, executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “We have had three years and very little to show for this and I’m not sure I support this.”
Summing up the planning committee’s view, Brian Boggis, executive member for regeneration, said: “They have demonstrated nothing but five years’ of incompetence and should we be sensibly authorising them to apply for more public funding?”
He asked what would be the implications of choosing not to redesignate.
Officers said that the forum had met the narrow criteria for redesignation, adding: “It would be quite difficult for the council to refuse the application.”
Several councillors suggested if the forum was redesignated, no public money was forthcoming from the council. Neil Parkin, leader of the council, said; “It’s been limping on for years, it’s an absolute nonsense.
“If we can’t kill it off maybe we can starve it to death.”
Martin Randall, the council’s director for the economy, suggested the council defer a decision to await a report from the neighbourhood forum team about what they expect to be doing in the coming months and years.
He said: “It may be a bit of a fudge but it gives you a little bit of breathing space.”
Angus Dunn, executive member for resources, said: “I think that’s a very good way forward.”
After the meeting, the neighbourhood forum said it was ‘dismayed’ by the content and tone of some of the comments.
The group felt the committee had not been aware of all the facts such as key figures being involved since the beginning, the forum submitting its fourth revision of the emerging draft plan for officers’ comments last June and the forum’s work having an influence on developments in the area such as improvements to the beach entrance at Ferry Road, community facilities as part of Beach Green’s regeneration and the western extension of the boardwalk to protect wildlife.
Dave Collins, chairman of the neighbourhood forum, said: “I’m proud of the hard work done by so many volunteers over the years to get the neighbourhood plan to this point. Yes, I acknowledge that it certainly has not been all plain sailing and we have had some setbacks. We’ve made some pragmatic decisions and let go of some of the more ambitious ideas.
“What we need now is a little more time and funding so that we can re-engage with the community, face-to-face, to present the work done since the last have your say day and then amend the draft plan for submission to Adur council.”
He urged Shoreham residents, particularly those living on the beach, to visit the forum’s website and see the quantity and quality of work that has been done so far.
Mike Whelan, the forum’s secretary, added: “This pandemic has forced us to rethink many aspects of our lives and how we rely heavily on neighbourhood infrastructure for all our needs, from fast broadband to wide pavements, to beach parking, adequate litter collection, outdoor activities for all ages and safe cycling routes.
“There is also expected to be a long-term economic impact and local businesses will need our support.
“The work to develop the plan has engaged with all these issues and has developed a shared vision of a thriving neighbourhood as a great place to live, work and enjoy a range of community and leisure activities. An approved neighbourhood plan will have the status of a legal document.
“As such could be used by neighbourhood organisations to strengthen their bids for funding their projects – for example from developer contributions.”
Responding to procedural objections, the forum explained how the current management committee was elected at the March 2018 AGM after a prolonged period of uncertainty following the resignation of its first chairman for family reasons the previous summer.
Progress was initially slow because the government grant had already been fully used so work depended entirely on volunteer residents supported by pro-bono input from professionals.
However by the end of the year the committee had successfully applied for a government top-up grant, which enabled it to submit the current draft plan to Adur in June 2019.
Detailed comments were taken on board and were due to be shared with forum members at a planned event combining a delayed AGM and public consultation event in late September.
The event was advertised but due to an administrative mistake only two’ weeks notice was given to members when the group’s constitution specifies three so it had to be postponed.
The forum’s management committee will meet on Wednesday (July 15) and resume its collaborative work with Adur planning officers to prepare a supplementary report which it hopes will enable the council to redesignate the forum in September.
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