I have had a number of phone calls as to why the meeting on the 6th of March is happening and responding to the flyers put through doors.
I felt it useful to place this open letter of explanation on Love Winchcombe website.
The point for having the meeting is to clarify and agree a majority FOW membership position and agree a way forward for the committee to represent.
This is because, in my view, it is pointless to have a committee that is not representing it's majority membership view.
Whilst the current Neighbourhood Plan responses are being analysed, the time for discussion and consultation has not finished until a referendum takes place, and it is perfectly right for any organisation with a campaigning stance to take a view on this. Consultation and comment, in public domain, is available to all until the referendum date delivers the final ratification.
In current format, The Neighbourhood Plan discusses development of sites in AONB and also wider development of sensitive historic sites, fundamental changes in use, with listed buildings included in proposals, changes to town fabric, parking arrangements and general factors that will create planning and development precedents for the future.
As the FOW was established to challenge a development of the Almsbury site and AONB development associated with this, it is important we clarify whether the FOW membership view has changed on that stance.
FOW was established as a campaigning group and the mandate I am seeking is to re explain and clarify this.
This is the first available meeting, post election as Chair, to do this.
I seek a majority agreement on campaigning and for core issues, to represent and to take FOW in that agreed direction.
However anyone who holds differing views is very welcome to attend the meeting, clarify the points they wish to raise and have the membership hear them. After which discussion, a vote will have to be taken on majority opinion of those present.
If the majority FOW membership supports the current contents of NP and agrees with AONB development, Almsbury Development and West of WInchcombe development then that will be the position of FOW, and the committee will be clearly instructed on that. If FOW rejects the current position of the NP as it includes developments they regard as unacceptable to the amenity and benefit of WInchcombe (i.e. Almsbury area & AONB Development as outlined, West of WInchcombe AONB development and other factors contained in it) then FOW will campaign for the NP to be modified before, or rejected at referendum; as it does not represent the majority view of FOW members.
This is a clear, rational and democratic tactic.
As ex Chair and founding member of FOW I think this clarification on position and mandate is overdue, and critical to FOW democracy, and more important a committee structure to represent this.
After this vote and clarification I expect some people will leave FOW, as it will not accord with their belief. It would seem pointless to be a member of an organisation whose aims are not agreed with.
Since being elected I have had one formal resignation of membership and over 40 new members / supporters subscribed, so on that basis I think I am pursuing a direction that has benefit to FOW longevity / membership.
We must represent a view, not just present opinions already being presented by other groups, as that gives no valid reason for FOW existence, as was nearly the position of the last AGM.
FOW was not established to sit on the fence and be impartial, it was established as a campaigning group and I hope to bring it back to basics.
Having been elected at AGM as Chair, by majority vote, it is important that I give the membership a chance to return a view and have the committee represent it.
I also want to clarify that I am personally not against a Neighbourhood Plan. I know they are invaluable documents when constructed on a level playing field and without prejudicing any argument.
However, I fundamentally do not agree with the content of our current Neighbourhood Plan and much of the process that has led to its compilation.
As Chair, if I do not get a vote for campaigning against and rejection of the NP (as currently proposed) then I will resign as Chair. I could not in any conscience lead or represent a committee supporting the current draft of NP and development of AONB / Almsbury / Parking in WInchcombe etc.
In the case of a supportive vote for the current Neighbourhood Plan contents, a new Chair and committee will then have to be established to carry that forward. If in that case a new committee and Chair does not step forward, closure of FOW will be voted on.
That is what I seek to achieve and the issues for you as members are development, landscape and AONB centric. The contents of The Neighbourhood Plan as presented, would not have met the approval of the founding principles and membership of FOW, as I understand it and have been contacted about. I seek to clarify how far things have moved and whether the membership wishes us to actually stand for something, and therefore what we stand for.
You can be assured that I will not be hypocritical in trying to stay Chair if the above opinion is not ratified by the membership, or pretend to represent a view that I have not had clear demonstrated mandate on.
If it goes my way on 6th March, FOW will become a voice again, rather than standing in the wings. I fully expect that, not to be everyone's cup of tea.
Chair Friends of Winchcombe