We receive a response to our comments about the City Plan
In our previous post, we referred to a letter we had written to the Salisbury Journal lamenting that the preparations for the proposed City Plan had not used a citizens’ assembly. We went on to discuss what we felt to be some of the significant shortcomings in the documents made available. We also wrote to some of the councillors in the same vein as the letter in the Journal and one councillor has replied in the following terms:
“I understand that you and your colleagues are disappointed, but this is not the beginning of the Neighbourhood Plan process, when an approach such as you suggest might perhaps have been more appropriate.
Work on the Plan began under the previous administration of this council in 2018 with a well-publicised call for help from volunteer community members. I can see that at that point, a Citizens’ Jury might well have been helpful in setting objectives and priorities. I wasn’t a councillor at that point and I don’t know whether it was suggested.
But I do know that over the last three or four years those volunteers, along with some councillors, have put in literally hundreds of hours of work, including holding several public consultations on specific elements of the Plan’s proposals, and by the time I took on the chairmanship almost a year ago it would not have been feasible or desirable to start unpicking what had already been achieved.
The aim of this latest consultation is to attract responses from as many individuals and interest groups as possible at this stage of this process, known as Regulation 14. We are required to do this as a steering group, and we will have to satisfy an inspector that we have done so.
Further stages of consultation will follow, as required by law, after the draft Plan is refined as a result of this exercise, and we will continue to be guided by the advice of our professional neighbourhood planning consultant on how best to proceed with this.
I know you will not be happy with this answer but we are where we are“.
We are grateful to the Councillor in taking the trouble to reply. It leaves open several of the points we raised. The idea of a citizens’ assembly was suggested at the beginning of this process. If ‘literally hundreds of hours of work’ by volunteers and councillors have been spent on this, why have some of the glaring omissions we pointed out not been spotted? Why are the alarming predictions of an ageing population – and the deleterious effects that will have on the city’s economy – not been highlighted? It really does look as though the process is charging off in the wrong direction and is gaining a momentum all of itself. The final stages will almost certainly focus on procedural points not on the substance.
It looks as though the process is too far advanced for a change of direction so truly ‘we are where we are’.