Campaign Group Queries Eden District Council’s Masterplan Consultation Process.
Eden District Council refuses to allow questions at its Scrutiny Committee meeting
Campaign Group Keep Penrith Special Believes
Eden District Council’s Public Consultation Over a New Town Near Penrith and Plans to Build on The Beacon Does Not Meet Basic Fairness Standards
The campaign group Keep Penrith Special, which has been set up to campaign against Eden District Council’s Masterplan (www.beaconvillages.co.uk) to double the size of Penrith and build on the town’s iconic Beacon, believes the public consultation launched by the council on 10th September does not comply with guidelines for consultations. For instance, the consultation could not be found, as is required, (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/691383/Consultation_Principles__1_.pdf) on the council’s own website (www.eden.gov.uk).
The Survey Monkey questionnaire used by EDC at the website beaconvillages.co.uk is open to spamming because it does not require responders to give their name, postcode or email. The group believes it is a heavily slanted consultation.
The group of residents put down a series of relevant questions about the compliance of the consultation with guidelines/best practice at the meeting of the Scrutiny Committee of EDC on Thursday 20th September 2018 at 6.45pm. These questions can be found in the attached word document. Eden District Council have refused to allow these questions to be put (see correspondence below).
The Campaign Group has gathered more than 800 signatures to their petition against the EDC Masterplan in the eight days since its launch on 10th September. Over 92% are CA postcodes and overwhelmingly dominant postcodes from Eden District.
The campaign spokesman Adrian Hill commented:
“ We believe this Consultation does not even try to be balanced. It fails every test for such a consultation. Our legitimate questions have been refused on technicalities at a meeting of the Council, exactly the Committee which is supposed to scrutinise matters like this. We hope the Press will put our questions to EDC for us, as they seemingly are being evasive”.
“Eden District Council claims to be conducting a proper public consultation. At the launch there was no publicised way on the site http://www.beaconvillages.co.uk so that people could respond otherwise than by filling in the anonymous Survey Monkey questionnaire. Following our group’s criticism that has been changed, but disabled access is terrible.”
“There are principles about consultations. Any fair minded person reading the Documents and Questionnaire issued by EDC would come to the conclusion that this is a heavily slanted questionnaire. Our questions below address this. Beyond this a number of residents have told us they think eight weeks is too short a period for this consultation (principle E)”.
Keep Penrith Special also believes there are some misleading assertions by the council and crucial information missing from the council’s publications.
Adrian Hill, the campaign’s spokesperson, explains:
“Put simply the questionnaire assumes that this development will take place. Nowhere are residents asked if they want the Beacon to be built on or if they simply want to reject the Masterplan and give their reasons.”
“The elevation of the site is never mentioned. It is on the highest point between Cross Fell and Blencathra. It is in a very exposed location. The UK Met Office maps show the area is likely to have snow falling for up to 30 days a year and snow lying for up to 20 days a year. The temperature will be at least three degrees centigrade cooler up there and therefore icy and snowy when Penrith is not.”
Why is development of the Beacon scheduled for phase one?
Adrian Hill continues: “The controversial plan to develop on the iconic Penrith Beacon is included in phase one of this Masterplan and we want to know why. The consultation document bizarrely claims that The Beacon will be protected from development by building on it. No one could possibly know what they being asked to agree to about this important iconic site. A development is planned described as a ‘low density development’ but no more detail is given, locally it is assumed this means another gated holiday log cabin complex.”
Local opinion about the Masterplan has been overwhelmingly negative.
Adrian Hill says: “Local coverage of the Masterplan has been largely negative and yet no news story containing negative coverage has been posted on the ‘News’ section of the Beacon Villages website.”
Keep Penrith Special had hoped that Eden District Council will answer their questions at the Council Strategy meeting on Thursday 20th September at 6.45pm at Penrith Town Hall.
Questions to Eden District Council are below on the last page of this press release and also attached in a PDF document.
Keep Penrith Special launched an online petition on 10th September against EDC’s Penrith Masterplan. Links to the petition can be found at www.keeppenrithspecial.org.
More than 800 people have signed the petition since launch ( 8 days ). Over 92% are CA postcodes and overwhelmingly dominant postcodes from Eden District. The population of Penrith is 15,500.
For further information please visit http://www.keeppenrithspecial.org or if you would like to speak to the Keep Penrith Special Group, please contact Adrian Hill on 07831810467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions addressed to Council Officers and Portfolio Holder Re Item 4
Asked by Adrian Hill of Woodside Farm Brougham on behalf of the 750 residents of the District who have signed the Keep Penrith Special Petition against the Penrith Strategic Masterplan (Masterplan) issued by EDC on 10th September.
- Why does neither the website, or any document issued by EDC in respect of the Masterplan, state what the purpose is of this consultation and what would be the next steps? This is well established as a fundamental requirement of any fair consultation.
- Why are there no details available about this consultation or the Masterplan availability on EDC own website? This is also a fundamental requirement of a fair consultation. (note we attach screen shots to prove this was the case, EDC have amended yesterday).
- Why do the questions in the survey assume the development will take place? More particularly, why is there no question which would enable a respondent to signify objection to the principle of the development (as opposed to its detail or location)?
- Why is question 6 asked in such a way that the only site which will emerge from responses will be the one recommended by EDC?
- Why is there no option to say you want the Council to reject this Masterplan and to go back and reconsider the project from the start?
- Why does question 11 assume that development on the Beacon is desirable at all? Why is there no option to say that you want no development at all on the Beacon?
- Why is the development on the Beacon coloured in a slightly lighter shade of green against dark green? Why is it described as ‘low density ‘development without any details being provided about what is actually meant by that?
- Was this (heavily slanted) questionnaire approved by the Officers, and have they confirmed that they believe it complies with best practice for a fair consultation? Did they take advice about the fairness and comprehensiveness of the documentation and survey?
- Why is the development on the Beacon itself in phase 1, although completely geographically separated from the phase 1 area?
- Did the Officers carry out a thorough check on the conflicts of interests of all advisers
- Has all the evidence gathering been paid for by EDC, and can the Officers confirm that they not relied upon information paid for by interested third parties?
12.Why is the fact that the topography of the site will require all the roads up there to be over the 5% gradient allowed for such developments under Cumbria County Council and Government policy not disclosed?
13.Why is the significance of the climate on this site (due to its elevation above sea level) not considered in the document, together with the resulting environmental impact on fuel use, heating costs, transport issues etc.?
14.Are EDC the legal owners of the website www.beaconvillages.co.uk? Do the Officers Control the site and the content? If not, who does?
Question asked by Tatiana Harrison of Roundthorn, Penrith
- On the map of the Penrith Masterplan, there is a long circular line of blue dashes on Beacon Hill. Blue dashes, according to the key, signifies “Improvements to Existing Roads.” There is currently no existing road on the Beacon. Could the leader explain why public funds would be used to build a road on a private estate.
Question asked by Hilary Bloomer of Edenhall Grange
1) As the Consultation survey monkey questionnaire is anonymous what controls have the Officers of EDC put in place to ensure that individuals or others cannot respond numerous times possibly from different devices and that responses are from genuine individuals who live in Eden District as their postcode and name is not required, and what Scrutiny has been given to this as the official information on privacy as the Survey Monkey website is anything but reassuring on this point?
* Reply from Mr Neal, Deputy Chief Executive Re: Questions asked by Adrian Hill, Brougham
Mr Neal, Deputy Chief Executive, has considered your questions and asked me to clarify that in accordance with the Council’s Constitution no person may submit more than one question at a meeting. Mr Neal has also asked me to notify you that he is rejecting your questions on the basis that there is no provision in the Constitution to allow members of the public to ask questions of the Portfolio Holder at a meeting of the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Board.
The Eden Development Portfolio Holder is attending the meeting of the Scrutiny Co-ordinating Board to give the Committee an update on progress against his Portfolio Plan. It was stated we could ask one question only at one meeting of the executive before the
c* Screenshots of Eden District Council’s Website – 17th September 2018onsultation closes.