Fulmar Drive and the Failure of Local Democracy
August 24th 2012
What was interesting was who else was there to witness the decision, other than the councillors. If I remember correctly there were two representatives from Taylor Wimpey, Sadie Russell from the Target, myself, and my son (who's too young to vote and I bribed with comics to attend). This isn't typical for a fortnightly council meeting: usually there are fewer onlookers. Sometimes there are none at all.
In this atmosphere it's easy to believe apathy about local politics has reached an all-time high. It's also easy to believe the Roger Smith's assertion, speaking on behalf of the developers, that "most people accepted the principle but were concerned about traffic." From inside that meeting room opposition to the development seemed very muted indeed.
What a different story at 7pm on Sunday 26th August, at Kestrel Drive. About 45 people turned up for a street meeting about Fulmar Drive. I wasn't there, but Labour Councillors David Hall and Laura Stephenson were.
David told me later that people were very hostile to the plans. They were angry about not being consulted, and about the traffic problems this greenfield development will cause them. And they were angry with the council.
600 CarsThese traffic worries aren't minor. Planning guidelines tell councillors to allow for four cars per household. Presumably that's to account for future growth in car ownership, as well as people having parties, relatives over, and so on. So the Fulmar Drive development could have almost 600 cars. That seems like a lot of traffic, until you realise the new estate would contain three times as many households as North Cockerington. It's no wonder residents of neighbouring streets are concerned.
AwarenessSo why weren't people at the LTC meeting on August 7th? And why don't they feel they're being listened to? It all points to a failure of communication between the council and those they represent. Information about upcoming planning decisions isn't kept secret: it's available on noticeboards at Sessions House and the Town Hall, and on the LTC website. However, I don't think many people realise they can look for this information in these places, or even that the town council has a website. We're bombarded with hundreds of messages each day, so it's no wonder some things slip through the cracks. That's why advertisers talk about the rule of seven: most people need to be exposed to a message seven times before they'll pay any attention to it. Clearly important information about local democracy is not getting through to most Louth residents.
Have Your SayThe next general meeting of the town council is scheduled for 7.30pm on 4th September, and for the 15 minutes preceding that the public can ask questions and make statements. Anyone can attend these meetings. Then on 12th September there will be a public meeting at 7pm at the Trinity Centre, Eastfield Road, about the Fulmar development.
If you care about these developments you should be there, or contact your councillor in Louth or East Lindsey. Without communication between representatives and the people they represent, this thing we call local democracy falls apart.
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