Six Acres – Communication Planning
It has become clear from recent Parish Council meetings and from some of the communications from parish residents, that the possibility that all or part of the six acres site owned by the Parish Council may be considered for housing, is a contentious one.
Presently, Dover District Council are carrying out their Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment that is linked with the development of a new Local Plan. Not surprisingly, any residents who live near any of the plots of land under consideration for development will have concerns.
Recent changes in government policy on house building have made it highly likely that additional houses will be built in the village of Preston regardless of what happens to the six acres site. This situation applies across the whole of Kent and is not limited to Preston.
It should first be noted that the Parish Council’s policy on the six acres of land remains unchanged. It is currently let to a farmer for agricultural use and the tenancy agreement includes a 2-year notice period.
It must also be noted that the six acres of land is a once in a lifetime asset for the parish. The Parish Council has a duty to make sure this asset is used appropriately to benefit the parish in the foreseeable future.
A Working Party has been set up to research and discuss all potential options that could be considered for the six acres of land. This will range in broad terms from no development at all, to partial and full development (plus all options in between). The benefits, advantages and disadvantages for the whole community will be set out for each option.
Some questions parish residents should consider
• What steps need to be taken to ensure that the village remains sustainable in the short, medium and long-term?
• What are the various uses the six-acre plot of land could be put to that would benefit the whole of Preston village?
• How would the village benefit in the medium to longer-term from having additional funds at its disposal?
• How does the parish encourage more young people to stay in the village so that the village school will contain more children from the immediate local community?
A communication plan to engage with parish residents
We all have to recognise that due to the virus, our daily lives have changed significantly and as such the means by which we have communicated in the past (e.g. knocking on doors, meeting people face-to-face, holding meetings in public) are no longer feasible at present
People like to be communicated with in different ways and the working party is aware of this. We have a quarterly newsletter, a village society group and a Parish website. In fact the working party has already put together some helpful information on the six acres that we will ask our web developer to include on the new Parish Council website. We will also make more use the parish noticeboard and leave some flyers containing updates in the village shop for people that do not have access to the Internet. The Parish Council meets monthly (remotely by Zoom) when the six acres working party will discuss the progress it has made.
It must not be forgotten that while it is essential for the working party to reach out to the community, we also need to encourage residents to communicate with us. We have already set up a process by which residents can submit their ideas and proposals for the six acres to us.