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Local Resident Calls for New Neston Partnership

Published: 10th September 2019 10:24

Local resident Robin Hughes is making a case for there to be a new partnership formed in Neston, to ensure that the area stands up and takes charge of its own destiny.

Robin, who has lived in Parkgate for 48 years, has been employed professionally in government and local strategic planning for many years. He was on the Market Towns Initiative Board and chaired the follow-up group CH64 Inc. Latterly he worked on policy development for the Neston Neighbourhood Plan and chaired the Monitoring Group that produced a progress report for the Town Council in 2018.

Neston Town CentreNeston Town Centre - one of the topics included in Robin's commentary.  Photo by Bernard Rose - you can see more of Bernard's local photos on his new Facebook page, Neston & Parkgate Photography.

Before retirement, Robin undertook local authority and NHS performance appraisals as well as child protection, youth justice and mental health investigations for the Departments of Health and Education and had previously been a consultant advising the Home Secretary on charitable and voluntary work.

In a far-reaching report, Robin has looked at the outcomes of a number of studies that have been carried out, including the most recently completed Cheshire West and Chester Local Plan.  He argues that whilst Neston features more than it used to in county-wide considerations, there is still work to be done. He makes his case under headings he has selected from the Local Plan, including areas such as affordable housing, transport infrastructure, the town centre, health and well-being and more.

Having made such an in-depth study, Robin says on page 1 of the report: "I would like to see a widely representative Neston Community Partnership set up to coordinate and progress actions, including obtaining funding, that will tackle some of the opportunities for Neston identified in the CWaC Local Plan, its concomitant Rural Growth Strategy Report and the Neston Neighbourhood Plan.

"It is not a new idea having first been proposed by the Neston Market Town Initiative in 2008 and there are plenty of models adopted by other towns."

You can read Robin's report in full here.*

I recommend that you do, and would like to thank Robin for his time and commitment to improving outcomes for the Neston area.

Once you have read the report, please do feel free to comment below.

*Some readers may have received the commentary directly from Robin via email. Please note that the version made available here is version 3, so has some additions to the previous iteration.



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At 11:12 on 11th September 2019, Denno commented:

I thought that was called Neston Town Council?
At 14:08 on 13th September 2019, Gareth commented:
Great work Robin.

Denno, I (a personal opinion) believe that this could have been Neston Town Council but they took on a different role. Its not been clear so far that they have the appetite for this, though I wait with interest to see the "Steps [...] taken to formulate a clear direction for the Council via a "Vision" and "Mission statement". Following on from this the Council will be looking at their strategic planning and will continue to review their budgets." mentioned in another article. (link here http://bit.ly/2kfPJ6Z)

Whether or not this fits with NTC's strategic planning, I believe it is important for anyone interested in the future of the town to attend the Re:Imagining Neston group meeting on Monday Evening. There is definitely a surge of potential that needs to be encouraged.
Dave Carter
At 05:29 on 23rd September 2019, Dave Carter commented:
If there are people who believe that this is what Neston Town Council should be doing, it is open to them to stand for either election or co-option, and put in the work, rather than expecting others to deliver their ideas. I have encouraged both Robin and Gareth to stand, but they haven't. I have no idea who Denno is, so in that case I cannot say. I did not stand at the last election, partly because I was fed up with being expected to put in the work to deliver the programme of those not prepared to stand. And a programme with which in large part I do not agree. I have delivered what I have delivered as part of NTC. Now it is time for others, maybe with different ideas.
At 08:32 on 23rd September 2019, Gareth commented:
Dave, first of all neither I or Robin’s article suggest what NTC ‘should’ be doing. Second, there are a great number of people who ‘put in the work’ in Neston almost all of whom are not Councillors. Third, ‘elected’ councillors are there to represent the views of their constituents and by definition there is an expectation that councillors are ‘expected to deliver their ideas. Fourth you have never, by word or deed, encouraged me to do anything.

Finally, if you do not wish to put in the work to deliver the people’s wishes then you were right to stand down. The town Council is a representative body.
At 11:41 on 23rd September 2019, Denno commented:
I do hope local politics is not going down the same road as parliament which has become a swamp that needs to be drained at the next GE. A partnership with NTC is fine if it improves that which we already have but not as a breakaway unit to cause confusion.Personally, I admire anyone who can tolerate committee work but that is not me I'm afraid.
Robin H
At 15:03 on 23rd September 2019, Robin H commented:
It’s probably time to recall that the ‘programme’ Mr Carter does not agree with was commissioned and approved in its entirety by the Town Council after years of work by hundreds of local people. There was consultation (it is documented) and official scrutiny before it became part of the statutory Local Plan. Never has there been such a well-founded, democratically-derived, coherent set of objectives aimed at future-proofing Neston for the next 30 years. The Town Council made it its own official policy but Mr Carter, who was a member of that self-same Town Council, rejects ‘large parts of it’, despite the general public voting for it in a public referendum. This is about the greater good not individual egos.

It’s unfortunate that ill-informed procrastination has delayed implementation but encouraging to hear of a new generation of town councillors understanding the opportunities as well as the initiatives being opened up by the CWaC ‘Reimagining Neston’ project. Let us hope that time can be made up.

I don’t think there’s a lot of point wondering why a pioneering initiative that won plaudits was not energetically driven forward by the Town Council that founded it; many people were standing by ready to help, puzzled by the silence. One does not have to be a member of the Town Council to serve the community. Answers, if anyone has anything rational to say, would have to come from the town councillors at the relevant time who, for unknown reasons, kicked their own, no-one else’s, policies into the long grass. But, as I say, it’s not really worth the effort. Let’s just get on with cultivation and growth.
Robin H
At 15:09 on 23rd September 2019, Robin H commented:
P.S. I don't recall ever being 'encouraged' by Mr Carter; in any case, as he's challenged me personally and if we're playing 'higher and higher' I'll put up my track record of voluntary public service in this matter against anyone.
Dave Carter
At 17:36 on 23rd September 2019, Dave Carter commented:
I think that its a well established principle, certainly for MPs and probably extended to councillors, that the represent the interests of their constituents not their views. This goes back to Burke. But when I was elected to the council as a representative for Parkgate I tried as best I could to deliver what residents told me was needed. Sometimes that is not really within the power of the Town Council, but in the case of, for instance, the improvements to the play area, we got something done.

Dave Carter
At 17:48 on 23rd September 2019, Dave Carter commented:
Also, with regards to the referendum on the neighbourhood plan, there was a lot of semi-official publicity at the time, all of which pointed voters in one direction. There was almost no resource for pointing out the problems.
At 10:47 on 25th September 2019, BHFL commented:
I would just like to say lets stop the argument and focus on what Robin's report says. I have just read through the 6 pages and am now going to comment. My first thought, like Denno, was Town Council, cant they do this? Having read the report I have nothing but admiration for the huge amount of research and work that Robin has put into this. For example: The Clayhill site...who should oversee this area, manage it and sort it out, it desperately needs taking in hand to become the amazing resource that it should be. Small office units for start ups would be useful, tidying up the abandoned looking units, sorting out the horrific traffic situation by organising the abandon your car anywhere parking. His thoughts on various parts of the available local plans are going to focus people on what should be done for Neston. Chester or Ellesmere Port get all the input while Neston has many ideas in print, but no-one to action them. Here we are talking about major issues, like transport, affordable housing, protection of our valuable and unique environment. It is a report well worth reading. Well done Robin from a non-councillor, but local volunteer.
Susan C
At 08:48 on 26th September 2019, Susan C commented:
The reality is that Neston Town Council is a parish council with very few powers. Almost everything has to be sanctioned by CWaC, and it has no independent powers on planning, transport, social policy or whatever - ok, it runs the market and allotments and hands out a lot of our money to other bodies like Hip n'Harmony as discussed before. If anyone wants useful power they need to become a CWaC councillor.
Tim Wright
At 11:21 on 26th September 2019, Tim Wright commented:
Susan C - 'hands out our money to other bodies..' makes it sound like pocket money or something. A better description might be 'provides funding, via the grants system, to allow other local organisations to run activities, courses and classes to assist with social inclusion, skill building and community cohesion.'
At 11:43 on 26th September 2019, D M commented:
The Principal Authority is bound to take into consideration the position of its Parish Councils in relation to many civic matters. Having a Town Council ensures 'the voice of Neston' is at least heard and noticed at CWAC level. True, CWAC is not necessarily obliged to adjust its policies as a result of this - but it carries weight and has in the past benefitted Neston.

Where NTC does have power is in the use of its precept funds at the hyper-local level, with significant benefits for local residents.

NTC may not be perfect - and is only ever going to be as effective as the capabilities and commitment of its constituent volunteers - but at least those volunteers are trying to make a positive difference. They may not always 'get it right'; they may not always 'please everybody' - but the Town Council's existence and the efforts of its members does have a positive effect. I have been hugely frustrated by some things NTC has (or has not) done in recent years - but I also recognise the good it has done and applaud them for that. I don't personally avail myself of all the opportunities this affords me living in Neston - but I see the difference it makes to those who do.

Like anything, most would probably only notice if it were not there; when things they liked or relied upon ceased to be; and all powers and responsibilities were handed to CWAC.
Robin H
At 22:45 on 28th September 2019, Robin H commented:
And there we have a problem. Are we just trying to make the best of things or are we really seeking to create a new Neston? It is not the case that we are powerless. We have the Neighbourhood Plan which is not an option for CWaC. It is legally required to be taken into account. It provides access to housing and employment opportunities including funding for Neston that will make a real difference. The fact of its existence invests this town with credibility. We are not helpless victims of greater powers; the fact is there is an opportunity to take control. Now, I am entirely in favour of using the precept for grants, hanging baskets, the market and allotments if people think it's worth the money but we need to be lifting our eyes to bigger, strategic issues that really matter and are going to ensure Neston's future. I respect entirely the Town Council's choices but if they're not going to tackle the bigger picture someone has to.
Dave Carter
At 19:34 on 29th September 2019, Dave Carter commented:
By which mechanism does the Neighbourhood Plan provide access to housing and employment opportunities? It is primarily a document which needs to be taken into account when planning applications are considered, in this it is successful. Through the grants programme the Town Council actually has provided access to employment opportunities, through grants to Train2Change, Amber Button and others. And yes, I think that is worth the money, having reviewed the output from the first of these. And if you think the market is not worth the money you are at odds with a large number of residents. You have only to be in the town on a Friday morning to know this.

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