QEII Management Plan - FotD Draft Response

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H ERNE B AY ’ S C OASTAL P ARK M ANAGEMENT P LAN 2013 TO 2023 COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS OF THE DOWNS Our comments follow the structure in the draft plan which was shared with attendees at the King’s Hall meeting on 15th October 2012. Our comments are on behalf of the Friends of the Downs. The Friends of the Downs is a well-supported community group that recognises the Downs as a much-loved breathing space for the town and a valuable, healthy and diverse wildlife asset with national and international
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   QEII Coastal Park Draft Management PlanResponse from the Friends of the Downs  1 of 20  H ERNE B AY ’ S C OASTAL P ARK  M ANAGEMENT P LAN 2013 TO 2023 COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS OF THE DOWNSOur comments follow the structure in the draft plan which was shared with attendees at the King’s Hall meeting on 15th October 2012.  Our comments are on behalf of the Friends of the Downs. The Friends of the Downs is awell-supported community group that recognises the Downs as a much-loved breathingspace for the town and a valuable, healthy and diverse wildlife asset with national andinternational protective designations. We want to ensure that only environmentally andecologically sensitive and responsible actions are taken for the Downs. We also want to helplocal people and visitors to recognise the value of what we have in this slice of nature by thesea, and to enjoy it as part of a great day out in the Coastal Park. As a special interest group, our comments on this Plan are inevitably rather Downs-centricas this is the piece of land about which we are best informed. However, we have commentedon the rest of the Plan as and when we felt we have something to contribute.Some issues and ideas appear in more than one place in the draft plan. Where thishappens, we have repeated our response. Please excuse the repetition  – we did not wantany of our comments to be missed simply because they appear in one action plan and notanother.   QEII Coastal Park Draft Management PlanResponse from the Friends of the Downs  2 of 20 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  The Vision for the Coastal Park does not provide any clarity about what the Park isfor and what it is intended to become. We suggest:   “To develop a Coastal Park that app eals to a wide range of residents and visitors by offering a variety of high quality seaside experiences   – traditional; sporting; unspoilt and natural   – in one beautifully integrated seven kilometre  stretch of coast.”   We should emphasise that the Park offers “something for everyone”  by integratingthe entire Park without detracting from the distinctly different experiences and moodthat the three distinct sections of the Park has to offer - developed coast with beachhuts in West Bay; retail coast in the central area; natural coast in the Downs and inReculver Country Park.  This is a great opportunity to remove or re- site some of the “visual clutter” - signs,bins, benches - on the Downs and replace it with low-key, consistent signage andwell-placed amenities.  We are concerned by the suggestion to “provide car parking near the King’s Hall”  -we would like to see more information about where and how this would be achieved.  The maintenance of the Downs should not involve pesticides or herbicides.  We present on page 10 of this response a detailed SWOT analysis for the Downs aspart of the Park.  Much of the draft Plan is already work in progress or work that is planned by theCouncil. There is surprisingly little scope for community contributions.  The special scientific and ecological importance of the Downs has been under-stated, when its natural richness should be emphasised.  The idea of grass cutting on the lower slopes between Beltinge and Hillborough is nota recommendation from KWT, it is merely a suggestion - the Friends will examine itmore closely to see if it is worth progressing. Action L14 should be replaced with:   “Research the wildlife implications of a change to the cutting regime at the rear  of the promenade at Beltinge and Hillborough and decide whether there would be any benefit in making such a change   Similarly L15 should be replaced with:   “Research the wildlife implications of managing the scrub on the lower slopeand decide what the best management approach would be”  .     QEII Coastal Park Draft Management PlanResponse from the Friends of the Downs  3 of 20 CHAPTER 2 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Field Status The Plan says the Council has “in effect” donated the land to a Trust. What is the status of this Trust? Who will run the Trust? What representation or influence will the Council have onthe Trust? Vision for the Coastal Park The suggested vision is “To manage the area… establishing a range of new projects to enhance the fabric and facilities of the seafront, coast and semi-  natural areas.”   As a vision, this does not give any clarity about what the Coastal Park is intended tobecome.  This means that there is no guidance as to what sort of projects might be a suitable way of helping to achieve the vision. The impact of this is that the draft Plan reads as a collection of disjointed projects, rather than as a coherent series of projects which will move the Parktowards a clear vision.The vision should answer questions such as:  Who is the Park for?  What is it for?  What kind of experience is it intended that people will have in it?  How does it support the overall vision for Herne Bay?  Is the Park supporting, enhancing or leading the future regeneration of the Pier?The current draft of the Plan fails to paint a picture of what we are hoping the Park willbecome. Is it intended primarily for locals? Is it intended to play a key part in attractingvisitors to the town? If so, who do we hope they will be and how do we expect them to usethe Park? Without this clarity, we have an incoherent patchwork of ideas and projects. Therisk of having no unifying aim or vision is that the Park will suffer from this and will also lookdisjointed and incoherent.By way of illustration, a multi-course dinner requires thought to be given to the guests whowill attend and to the balance of the individual dishes. Each course does a different job, butthey all need to work together. A chef who just slings in every dish suggested will produce something terrible to eat. Let’s not allow the Park to be a dinner of ice cream, gherkins and spare ribs - all of which are well-liked foods, but which together will not make a great meal. There is almost a million pounds’ worth of spend suggested in this Plan for the Coastal Park. That amount does not include the sea defence work (which is both funded by theEnvironment Agency and something that will happen independently of any plans for aCoastal Park) nor does it include the rebuild of the Victorian Shelter as this is a replacementwhich should be being funded from insurance money.   QEII Coastal Park Draft Management PlanResponse from the Friends of the Downs  4 of 20 The point is worth repeating - almost a million pounds worth of expenditure is beingsuggested for the Coastal Park.If we were starting from scratch and developing an action plan from a clear vision, and if wewere then given almost a million pounds to spend on delivering that vision, the key questionis whether we would choose to invest in all the projects that are currently in the Plan. TheFriends of the Downs do not think that we would. Given that, we think it is critical that a clear vision be developed to guide decisions about future expenditure and to help make choicesbetween projects that will be competing for funding.The follow up vision suggested by the Council after the King’s Hall meeting is:   “To protect, enhance and promote the unique heritage and open spaces of HerneBay’s Coastal Park”    We think that this is a definite improvement on the vision suggested in the Plan. However, itstill does not answer the question of what we are developing a Coastal Park for  . What willbe different if we achieve the vision set out for the Park? How will the town and residentsbenefit?There is no criticism intended in this feedback about the vision. Developing a vision is trickyand members of the Management Committee of the Friends of the Downs have all beeninvolved in vision development in our business lives, so we know how hard it can be. Wecertainly do not have a final, crisp vision to offer. However, we offer the following as an AuntSally: “To develop a Coastal Park that appeals to a wide range of residents and  visitors by offering a variety of high quality seaside experiences   – traditional; sporting; unspoilt and natural   – in one beautifully integrated seven kilometre  stretch of coast.”    The enhanced Coastal Park should support revenue generation in Herne Bay as well asproviding local residents with much-needed open space for their health and well-being. Community input We need to remember that just 42 people voted for this run of land to become a CoastalPark under the Fields in Trust scheme. This means that we have yet to capture realcommunity interest in this project.It is also worth mentioning that some ideas that were put forward by the community last year have not been fed into the action plans in this draft Plan. The Friends of the Downs andHerne Bay in Bloom have long been suggesting that they work with local schools (and thesupport of one was secured last year) to develop a coastal garden at the foot of the HundredSteps. That area has been omitted from the QEII Park altogether.
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