Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Neighbourhood Plan?

Simon Moores - Yesterday in Prague
I'm back at my desk again, having arrived in from Prague about an hour ago. I see that the official video of the last Thanet District Council meeting on 18th April, is now available to view online and is attracting a full spectrum of comment elsewhere.

However, what strikes me most, is that the debate is solid and the meeting is remarkably well-behaved. That is until about 65 minutes in to the recording, when Cllr Ian Driver and Cllr Rick Everett both raise the temperature in the Council Chamber, beyond boiling point with provocative statements. You can of course freely judge for yourself and take a moment to see if my 'Tweet's at the time and my own commentary on this blog from the following day, does indeed tally with what happened, because I have been accused of making some of it up by some observers, who wouldn't believe how wild it became at times..

As you can imagine, I've some catching-up to do with letters, phone calls and email, so I will keep today's entry short. I really just wanted to let Westgate residents that an informal meeting to discuss the development of our own neighbourhood plan for the town is scheduled for next Friday 3rd may at 6pm and I'm thinking of asking if we can use Paul's Bar. If you would like to be involved and feel you can contribute to the conservation, heritage, legal or planning side of designing one, please let me know as skilled volunteers are most welcome if we are going to be successful in pushing through the first of its kind to appear in Thanet.


Anonymous said...

Re Video of TDC meeting. Is it my computer or is the quality of video less than perfect?

Simon Moores said...

No, its not great but there are criteria that govern the filming of local government meetings

The Council simply can't afford a better system as there are much greater budget priorities at present with central government funding slashed as it tries to reduce the £120 billion annual deficit

Anonymous said...

I was there and the best bit with Driver wasnt there- was that done on purpose as he seems unstoppable!

Anonymous said...

Surely if the quality of video is as bad as it appears to be on my computer then it might have been better not to have any video at all, and saved the money for something else. Or is it compulsory to video these meetings?

Simon Moores said...

To answer both questions for you in turn.

The rules and the technology governing the filming of public meetings make them very different to Match of the Day.

Like Parliament, the camera only films the person who is speaking via a microphone at the time and therefore, if a riot is taking place off microphone, it may not catch it as this is not part of the democratic process even though it might be considered entertaining

The video is a public record and as such is aimed at capturing debate, motions, questions, votes and resolutions and nothing more.

As the former cabinet member responsible for technology under the previous administration, I introduced a very limited video service, the results you see here.

Basically, the microphones are obsolete and the Council can't afford to replace them in the present climate and the video capability is very limited; once again with quality vs cost being a factor.

My view was that it is better to have something rather than nothing but with the caveat that we are too poor to afford better!

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have watched the parliament channel lately but cameras seem to pick out anybody who is making a comment from a sedentary position. For example, Michael Gove was interrupted by the member for Rhondda and the camera went to him so we the public could see who was interrupting. I am not saying that TDC should have the same but your point that "Like parliament" is not strictly true. Having said that, you get what you pay for.

Simon Moores said...

Yes.. the moment the microphones pick someone up, the camera pans but that's Parliament and we are a struggling Council in Kent, now facing an enormous bill for costs and damages from the Ramsgate animal exporter, which might have paid for the latest, smartest, video broadcasting capability that money could buy; possibly even in 3D...!

Anonymous said...

God forbid we should have 3D, some councillors are bad enough in 2D, and as for glorious technicolor.....,

Anonymous said...

An alternative might be to have some college students on media courses to do the filming and uploading as part of their studies. They could be paid a small fee to cover their costs and would surely do a better job.
As for the condition of TDC's microphones, have each member chip in a couple of quid from their own exes and send one of them to Maplin at Westwood X where they can buy a job lot for very little.
There is ALWAYS a simple solution [unless you are a councillor it seems]

Anonymous said...

What status does a "Neighbourhood Plan" have ?
Presumably TDC is the planning authority and their plans will trump any such neighbourhood plan ?

Simon Moores said...

1:00pm makes it sound so simple but in reality it's very complicated.. for example, the costs of streaming and hosting up to three hours of video!

Bernie said...

obviously I don't know when the last assessment of cost for a new system was carried out and whether that was done with any preconceived ideas shall we say, as there doesn't seem to be much love for making information known to the public generally (!!) I would just say though that this really is an important issue. Getting knowledge of how the Council works and how Cllrs. behave at meetings and what they are discussing would educate and help people make more informed choices. You never know, it may even encourage more people under 55 to want to get involved in local politics and the implications of that could be huge!
When we get reports of Cllrs. behaving in inappropriate ways, showing a lack of manners and contempt for the public and their position in society, and a lack of respect for each other, they seem merely to reflect all that is wrong with society, not the opposite!
Sadly this will have a knock-on effect for other more well behaved Cllrs who do work hard and well for the public. Both sides could gain from having things properly recorded and then publicised as well :) x

Simon Moores said...

In fact, as the Cabinet member responsible for IT tat the time. I assessed it, introduced a pilot video project and made the decisions based on cost and available budgets. Webcasting was way down on the list of Council priorities I'm afraid.

The Council's IT infrastructure was in a pretty woeful state at the time anyway through under-investment.

Martin Powell said...

To reply to the comment on 'Neighbourhood Plan' being 'trumped' by TDC, the idea being introduced by the the new planning framework (The NPPF) is for local communities to be much more in the 'driving seat' as far as local development is concerned. It is a new idea, combined with the 'Localism' agenda which seeks to put decisions as close as possible to those directly affected.

Such 'neighbourhood plans' will have to be compliant with the overall direction of the Council's ideas - eg it would not be reasonable to seek to put a complete ban on any development, but I see it as potentially a way of boosting the currently seemingly 'advisory' status of the existing Conservation Area.

Having read the NPPF and associated local government circular (yes, I know I should get out more), where a neighbourhood plan is adopted, it will form part of the Local Authority's development plan. Therefore it will be of great assistance in maintaining/improving local development.

I believe that local authorities will be statutorily required to assist local communities in setting up neighbourhod plans, even to the extent of funding any required referendum!

If we, as a community, can get this to work, then there has to be more chance of keeping the special character and appearance of this area, and perhaps even getting some much needed improvements!

In the words of 'Wolfie' Smith "Power to the People"!

Best Regards