I’ve just come home after chairing Frome Town Council’s ‘Town Matters’ committee – the one dealing with issues out in the community. A game of two halves. Much of the meeting was our response to the Local Plan Part Two. Eight pages of detailed report that hours of staff and councillor time has gone into, looking at areas of the town which will be earmarked for development – or not. If we don’t recommend enough space for housing then the whole thing is declared illegal and developers can do what they like – so it’s not an option to reject the lot. And to make it worse, the District Council (who make the decisions) are so under resourced and under skilled that what we are offered is not a plan, but a set of one off options around the edges of the town with no strategic thinking….
So I am faced with a room full of bemused people, forced into approving things we can all see are madness. What can I say to the group of local residents who want to know we have listened to their plea not to have a housing estate on an area that the District has previously declared unsustainable for development, but now put forward for development?
Come in Kafka. This is local democracy at its most dysfunctional. This is where ‘Localism’ is a joke.
And then the second half brings us plans for real engagement with the community supporting groups to take control at a local level of the things that matter to them. And a report on fantastic work that has been done to enable struggling groups to emerge from near collapse to thriving action. And a discussion with Harry’s Hydro – long supported by the council to bring hydro therapy to around 100 people a week.
I guess the moral is to pour energy into the things we can affect. But the massive frustration remains that it is the crap planning that will stick Toy Towns in the fields around Frome, without forcing developers to provide the infrastructure needed and without even a nod to joined up thinking, that will impact more on lives in the future than efforts of so many at a local level.