Turnstone by John Maiden, November 3, 2015

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With nearly two hundred members it is reasonable to suppose that Hunstanton and District Civic Society is more strongly supported than any other society in this corner of northwest Norfolk.

Having been a member since it was formed in 2002, I believe it does a really good job when it comes to pressing local government on matters affecting the quality of life for local inhabitants.

For example, yesterday (Monday November 2) an application to West Norfolk Council by Hopkins Homes for 166 new dwellings on a greenfield site west of Redgate Hill, was opposed by the Civic Society on the grounds that this would not be a sustainable development.

This afternoon, at a public hearing at South Lynn Community Centre, the Civic Society will argue that new homes in Hunstanton should be built closer to the town centre on two greenfield sites situated east of the A149.

For the past five years members have been very fortunate to be represented by Andrew Murray as their Chairman, because as well as being actively involved locally - most recently in his role as Town Mayor - Andrew attends the annual general meetings of Civic Voice, the umbrella organisation representing some 75,000 members from the 290 Civic Societies that have joined since its formation in 2010.

Last Thursday representatives of Civic Voice attended a meeting hosted by Planning Minister Brandon Lewis to discuss local participation in the planning system. In particular they offered to assist the minister in achieving his objective to bring forward more housing developments on brownfield sites.

The vision, proposed during the meeting by Civic Voice, is to increase community participation in the planning system, so that local plans are shaped by local people. Civic Voice wants to engage communities through their local civic societies and encourage communities to be the driving force in achieving the minister’s aims. The overall goal, being that the development of brownfield housing sites is propelled forward through the power of community participation.

The meeting came about after Civic Voice, whose mission is to develop a society where everyone can say: ‘I care about where I live’, responded to the Prime Minister’s announcement that he expects all councils to create and deliver new homes in their area by 2017.

Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, who attended the meeting said: “The meeting was a great chance to discuss with Mr Lewis the vision offered within our manifesto: ‘Localism for Real’ and advocate the capacity of civic societies within local communities to effect change in their area. I will be writing to the Minister detailing our proposals.”

David Tittle, Chair of Civic Voice’s Expert Panel, added: “As part of a commitment to our values, Civic Voice, regularly participates in and influences ministerial plans where it connects to our manifesto. The meeting with Brandon Lewis was no exception and has only encouraged us to be further involved. We look forward to following up the meeting and discussing our proposals in detail with his colleagues.”