Cockermouth Neighbourhood Development Plan

Debbie Taylor writes in the Times & Star today:
Debbie Taylor

Dear Sir,

I applaud the positive, can-do attitude of more than 30 people who attended a forum on Tuesday 2 August arranged by Cockermouth and District Civic Trust “in a bid to gauge interest in developing a Neighbourhood Development Plan.”

In favour of transparency, I want to ask why the Town Council have rejected this progressive sounding initiative as being “a waste of time and money.” (Times and Star, August 5) Neighbourhood Development Plan or not, surely it would be very helpful for the community to know their Town Council’s opinions on this matter.

As someone who visits the town every day; with a son who attended Cockermouth School until recently, I am concerned about Cockermouth’s infrastructure and sustainability as it grows. We all know that housing initiatives, for instance, need to be supported by other essential services. Moreover, particularly if there are a great many new houses, a Community Impact Assessment is key. In the 20-odd years I’ve lived here I have seen Cockermouth change dramatically and, for the most part, I have embraced those changes. However, we all have a responsibility to start to look holistically at the infrastructure and development of Cockermouth in order to help support, among other pressing concerns, young people; senior citizens; start up enterprises and our existing independent businesses. As Darren Ward, architectural adviser to the Civic Trust said (Times and Star, August 5) there is a “growing concern that the town is moving very rapidly towards dormitory status.” Mr Ward feels this will be irreversible. This has happened in many villages, we cannot let it happen to our town.

There needs to be a mindful debate where everyone can participate, including the Town Council. Could this happen using social media? I am led to believe that Cockermouth Town Council are one of the few councils still not making use of that medium. If the readers of this newspaper believe that many heads are better than one, might I also suggest, in the words of my colleague Rebecca Hanson, that “the Town Council needs to be crowdsourcing their capacity to work on complex issues – like a town plan and flooding – through social media.”

A Neighbourhood Development Plan might provide an amazing opportunity, not least to listen to the community – and that is paramount; and partnership working. An ambitious and focused initiative could improve the physical environment, economic wealth and prospects for Cockermouth.

Debbie Taylor, West Cumbria Liberal Democrats

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