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Executive receives update on Penrith Masterplan engagement process

Penrith Beacon

Tonight (4 December 2018) Eden District Council’s Executive received an update on the public engagement process for the Penrith Strategic Masterplan – A Vision to 2050.

The non statutory public engagement process for the Masterplan (the document has no legal status), took place over eight weeks from 10 September – 2 November 2018. The engagement exercise was resource intensive and comprised a ‘pop-up shop’ at 3 Middlegate in Penrith and a range of public drop in events across the District.

During the public engagement period the ‘pop up shop’ had 997 visits (these are not unique visits as some members of the public visited more than once). Some 242 comments were made on the ‘pop up shop’s’ graffiti wall.

The response to the 15 pop up community engagement events varied enormously with few people attending events held in the other market towns outside Penrith, where as 42 people attended an event held in Langwathby and some 260 students took part in three events held at Ullswater Community College. At these events comment postcards were available for people to complete and 230 were received.

The dedicated website for the public engagement process which included plans, document to download, frequently asked questions and links to a survey monkey questionnaire. The website was visited by 4,787 people and had 8,686 unique page views. The questionnaire which included tick box responses and open comment boxes was completed by 667 respondents.

The Council also used social media to engage with the public and ran a dedicated Facebook page and posted tweets through its corporate Twitter account. The reach from the posts and tweets was 870,000 from an impression of 225,000 and an engagement of 1,620 (number of people liking and commenting). The social activity from social media attracted 1,016 visitors to the dedicated website.

The Council also received 72 email responses from the public and 14 from consultees such as the County Council, United Utilities and the Environment Agency etc. The Council has also commissioned an independent market research company to survey residents within Penrith about the general objectives contained within the Strategic Masterplan proposals. The results of which will be included in the evaluation of the engagement process.

Two petitions have been received and validated by the Council. The first petition submitted by ‘Friend of the Beacon’ confirmed that ‘we the ‘’friends of Penrith Beacon’’ petition Eden District Council to take the necessary action for all of the Beacon Forest to remain as it is now, a wild place with no development and accessibility to all residents’, and was the subject of a debate by Council on 8 November 2018. This petition was received shortly after Lowther and Lonsdale Estates formally withdrew the Beacon Forest Area from the Masterplan proposals.

The second submission, comprising of prepaid postcards containing statements and comments, an online petition containing a statement of objection and a series of signed petition sheets, reflecting the online petition, has been received as a formal petition from ‘Keep Penrith Special’. The petition seeks rejection of the Masterplan of Eden District Council Accordingly, this petition will be debated at a full Council meeting on Thursday 10 January 2019.

Eden District Council’s Leader Kevin Beaty, said: “The public engagement exercise has stimulated a debate and engaged people in considering the issues the area faces such as a decreasing working age population, a low wage economy, providing the right mix of housing and its affordability and how to improve the vitality of Penrith town centre.

“We are keen to continue the conversation with the public and stakeholders and as move forward to evaluate the feedback received from the public engagement and to review the conclusions reached from the traffic modelling exercise for Penrith, the Eden wide flood risk assessment and the current housing needs survey in the months ahead. This is a significant piece of work which will inform a concluding report to this stage of the process expected in early 2019.”

Adrian Hill, Spokesman for the Keep Penrith Special Campaign Group said: “It’s absurd that the Council persists with calling this woeful and unlawful consultation an engagement, when they know full well that the rules governing public consultations applied.

“They have failed to abide by the well-established legal requirements for a public consultation.

“They boast about the level of engagement, when in truth, it was simply an uprising of anger and rejection of the plan to double the size of Penrith, by building a new town 2.5 miles from Penrith on the highest point between Cross Fell and Blencathra, and on top of the UK’s strategic gas pipeline.

“The Masterplan is distilled insanity, and more than 4,500 local people who have signed our petition

(thousands also signed the petition of to save the Beacon) effectively told the Leader of EDC and the whole Council to bin the Masterplan. But they still insist they are going forward. They are not listening to the Eden Residents.

“Keep Penrith Special are preparing to put up independent candidates endorsed by our group against any Councillor who is in favour of the Masterplan or indeed any councillor who sits on the fence like our MP, Rory Stewart. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you are interested in standing.

“We are also ready to apply for a judicial review as soon as EDC take a decision to proceed with the Masterplan. We are confident that we will be successful in such a judicial review, that is because EDC started their process at chapter 3, and in law they had to start at the beginning, chapter 1, with a full review of all sites and not jump to a preferred site behind the Beacon as they did. We say it would be far better for EDC to follow the lead of Lowther Estates and to abandon the Masterplan and to stop wasting our money defending the indefensible.”

For more information about Eden District Council visit www.eden.gov.uk

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