Wednesday, 19 June 2013

District Council and consultation

A story on the Sidmouth Herald's website from yesterday:

Sidbury residents questioned on village issues

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
11:00 AM
Speeding and illegal parking are causes for concern for the people of Sidbury according to a recent survey – but a proposed employment site remained the hottest topic.
A team from East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) environmental health department heard that many motorists drive at double the 20mph speed limit, often around blind bends.
Poorly parked vehicles are creating chaos for buses which cannot fit through, while one resident reported their house was suffering a barrage from large vehicles.
But the most diverse worries were about the possible development of a jobs hub north of Sidford, which EDDC has earmarked in its draft Local Plan.
Residents feared adverse effects on the aesthetics and the smell of sewage in Sidbury, as well as saying the plans were contrary to local wishes.
Homeowners also spoke of the problems of building on a flood plain, as many of them back onto the River Sid and have already been affected by rising water.
The neighbourhood assessment had responses from around 80 households on topics from roads to refuse, housing and crime.
It was carried out by volunteers and a Sidmouth PCSO, who heard that the village is relatively litter-free, but some waste was thrown by passing motorists, and there were also complaints of fly-tipping and dog fouling.
Most people said they feel safe in the village and are not affected by crime or antisocial behaviour.
Residents answered the questionnaire on March 1.
The issues that arose have been passed on to the relevant authorities.

The whole question of 'consultation' has been brought up on Independent Cllr Claire Wright's blog in the last couple of days:

1. At 12:27 pm on 18th Jun Tim Todd wrote:
I am particularly interested in the element concerning the questionnaire/survey for the business community.
At long last, what I have been repeatedly been on to them about, the validity of their past questionnaires/consultations, seems to be sinking in. (See previous FOIs at whatdotheyknow.com)
Notice what they say about self-selecting respondents “If the survey is self selecting i.e. we have no control over who completes it, then the results cannot be extrapolated to the whole population and we do not know who has completed it”.  I did of course point this out to council when an officer had told me that their Exmouth survey was a valid consultation. Personally I can only read the above statement from them as an admission that their methods in the past have been inept, inaccurate and inappropriate.
I am very pleased to see signs of progress but bandying a few comments concerning methodology about is not evidence that they have got it right. I do hope, and will be suggesting, that any survey is trialled in the proper way to ensure that the questionnaire is robust, appropriate and that the proper means to independently evaluate it are in place. Otherwise chances are that it will be as useless as others have been in the past
2. At 10:32 pm on 19th Jun Emma wrote:
Excellent point, Tim.  Your post strikes a chord because there are remarkably similar concerns relating to the validity of questionnaires used to determine the ‘preferred site’ for development in Newton Poppleford & Harpford.
In this case, the public were shown advanced plans for one particular site at King Alfred Way (see planning application 13/0316/MOUT), including a surgery and new hall, at a meeting intended to gauge public opinion about all the potential sites put forward in the SHLAA process. Other sites weren’t given equal representation.
Funnily enough, when questionnaires were filled in, people followed the not-so-subliminal message and voted for King Alfred Way as a suitable site, and surgery/hall as the amenities they would like to see.  It’s like Derren Brown-style powers of suggestion from the Parish Council, only without the subtlety…
Analysis of the public vote on suggested sites, which the public were asked to rank 8 sites according to preference, was conducted using a first past the post method rather than a reverse-points scoring system which would be more appropriate in this case.
Again, respondents were self-selecting and small in number.  Attendance at the meeting may in itself have represented a selection bias, due to the poor advertising of the meeting and lack of information about its purpose.
I know this is nothing to do with Claire’s ward per se, but the similarities are very interesting. A thorough re-evaluation of the SHLAA sites according to valid scientific protocol, is required in Newton Poppleford & Harpford.


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