Today was the first of a number of consultation workshops for members of the public to have a say on the new local plan. Cllr Ian Ward was quick to remind members of the public that this is a ‘fresh start’ and that he is doing things differently. About 15 members of the public attended the meeting, which was held in the upstairs room of the Mill Hall in Rayleigh Town centre. A brief presentation of what this consultation was hoping to achieve followed by a number of good questions from the public.
Perhaps by now, as Rayleigh is one of the last area’s to hold these workshop, I was expecting something a little bit slicker. I was sadly disappointed. Given that the average age in the room much have been at least 55+ even the text on the PowerPoint presentation was too small for this 40 year olds eyes. There was no amplified speech so again hard to hear over the hum drum of the aging air conditioning fan unit located in the ceiling.
I had to raise an eyebrow at the expectation of the next part of the ‘workshop’ – a walk around Rayleigh. Now I do a fair bit of walking, but I must say, did you expect me to walk along the Eastwood Road, Up to the Weir, Along Castle Road, Through the High St, Down Upway, Along London Road past Lower Barn Farm and then on to Carpenters Arms…….
I think I make my point – Rayleigh is too big to have a little walk about. These workshops need to be spread out into East, West, Central and maybe more. Each area of Rayleigh has it’s own problems and with a population of over 33000, the council is going to need a better representation from the people if the council planning policy makers are serious about the problems local people face. Moving one stage further you actually need some younger people to have a voice. How to engage this demographic? What I do know is the policy that’s made now is going to have a huge impact on our children.
I think this needs a little more than tweaking. It needs some real thought to be effective, unless the cynicism in me means it’s little more than a PR exercise?