Charlbury Town Survey News
Some people have quite reasonably asked what has happened about the results of the Town Survey and some have also questioned:
"who are these people on the forum?"
or "are they people with an Agenda?"
or "how much does it cost and who pays?".
It is evident that a response is required and we hope the following answers these as best we can.
Firstly regarding "who pays?" :
Most of the effort going into this exercise is from volunteers. Where it has been necessary to spend money, for example on printing or data entry or analysis, then this has generally been covered by a grant from central government (via Locality) specifically for the purpose of creating Neighbourhood Plans. Grants have a limit of £8k but can only be used for this specific purpose and a quote and details have to be provided before applying for grants and this can only be done at certain times. Because of grants Charlbury itself has only incurred minimal expenditure on the exercise.
"Why has it taken so long?" :
We are in fact surprised by how much time and effort has been required to complete this exercise. It is perhaps worth stressing that most of the effort comes from volunteers all of whom lead pretty busy lives and have limited availability over the seasonal holiday period. It was thought important that the data was entered and analysed independently and an agency was contracted to do this with another independent person (following an invitation to tender process) to undertake some analysis. This was somewhat delayed by the above grant approval process. The results have now been captured but the exercise of putting them into a form that is digestible and easily understood and can be used as a basis for a plan is far from trivial. Our aim is to present all the data at a public meeting in what we have described as a 'vanilla' form i.e. not selective or skewed by anyone's bias or previously held assumptions. The meeting when it happens is not intended to be simply a one way presentation but will invite comments and be an integral part of the process of subsequently deriving some policies and a plan based on the results. There will of course be further opportunities for public scrutiny after which the Neighbourhood plan (which affects development) will be put to the community in a referendum and, if approved, will become part of the formal framework for planning. There will be a separate Community Led Plan for initiatives planned for the town Council and community as a whole. Hopefully this explains why it takes so long but we do feel it is important to get it right.
"Who are involved & do they have their own agendas?" :
The Neighbourhood Forum is called a "forum" because it welcomes ANY member of the community who wants to contribute and this is as true now as it has ever been. We encourage people to get involved. There is a committee of volunteers and meetings are held every second Thursday in the month at 8pm in the Corner house and all are welcome (although it would help if you advised us of your joining us). Minutes and names of committee members are posted on our website ????? and along with the minutes are matter of public record. We have joint chairs in John Hole and Graham Terry and we have been consistent and insistent that the objective of the committee is to gain and articulate the views of the community regarding Charlbury's future - not pursue any personal agendas. We record any potential conflicts of interest albeit there have only been a few, notably Rushy Bank. To date we believe that we have maintained this approach and have recognised through the process how easy it is to make entirely wrong assumptions about how others feel about issues. The committee are all volunteers apart from Lucy Crane-Lupton who is paid for a few hours a month to act as project manager/administrator and without whom this would have been a much more protracted exercise.
One recent change following the completion of the survey is that the Neighbourhood Forum has spawned two sub-groups; one concentrating on development/planning issues and targeting the production of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) ; the other concentrating on community aspirations and initiatives and targeting the production of the Community Led Plan (CLP). The former has a strong Town Council membership because legislation requires the town council to be the sponsoring body for a NDP. The NDP group is currently consulting the district council and other statutory bodies to ensure that what we put in our plan is supported and deliverable.Town council members also participate in the CLP group.
Survey status :
The survey had a few problems but in the end we achieved a much better return rate than the average for this type of survey. 554 households responded comprising 951 individuals; this should give some interesting results. We believe, however, that we still probably did not capture views from every section of the community even though we suspect that some of those that did not respond are perhaps the most disaffected amongst us. Efforts are underway to investigate other ways to try and reach these people so as to find out whether their reasons were lack of interest or grievance, knowledge of which will help create a caring community led plan that addresses the desires of all areas of the community.
The date of the planned public meeting will be publicised just as soon as we feel the data is in a form that can be presented clearly. Hopefully this will not be too long now. It may be encouraging to know that the survey showed 79% positive that Charlbury is "a great place to live" (3% were negative and the remainder neutral or no entry).
We hope this somewhat lengthy update explains better where we stand and we look forward to a big turn-out when the meeting is scheduled.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of the committee if you have any further questions.
Contact details can be found on www.charlburyneighbourhoodforum.org.uk
The Chairs of the Neighbourhood Forum Graham Terry and John Hole