With the arrival of a new decade, Deal Town Council began the process of looking at developing a new Town Plan. No assumptions were made at this point, the Council wanted to investigate the need, potential content and the type of Plan.
So on Wednesday 29 January 2020 the Deal Plan public consultation took place. There was a Public Display in the Town Hall Chamber where visitors were asked three questions:
1. What’s good about Deal?
2. What do you not like about Deal?
3. What could be done to make Deal even better?
These are the answers visitors gave to these three questions throughout the day.
In the evening there was a meeting of representatives from a wide range of community organisations. Guests had time to view the Plan Display and then guided by an external facilitator, Dr Cheryl Mvula, participants worked through a series of activities generating a considerable amount of information. This information has also been summarised. The guests appreciated that Deal Town Council had shown commitment to a participatory approach to developing a potential Plan. There was a clear consensus in the room that a grass roots driven Plan is needed with a shared vision of how to develop Deal.
Since then the world has been turned upside down by the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic and new phrases have entered our language like “social distancing”, “build back better” and “the new normal”. Society has adapted dramatically to the necessary draconian measures implemented to contain the virus. We work from home, we meet virtually, we isolate, we don’t gather together, we don’t go out socialising or for entertainment or for arts, we don’t use public transport, but we do walk and cycle more. We have lost family and friends and we may lose businesses and venues that just cannot withstand the vagaries of the pandemic measures.
So where does that leave the future of the Town Plan?
The short answer is, on hold. It’s hard to work on a people led plan when restrictions do not enable the participation of the whole community.
At the right time, the Council will revisit all the evidence gathered so far with post pandemic eyes and a focus on the key challenges to contribute to rebuilding our town’s economy and reversing global warming. Then the public consultation process will start again, in numerous ways, to ensure the maximum amount of people can contribute.