The Local Government Act 2000 placed a responsibility on local authorities to publish community strategies (or community plans). Guidance indicated that the strategies had to reflect the views of communities and not simply be a regurgitation of existing statutory bodies' policy documents.
In Tunbridge Wells the document published was entitled Tunbridge Wells Borough Community Plan. Note it was not Tunbridge Wells Borough Council's Community Plan, although the document only received formal status on been approved by the Council.
In 2003 the Council established a steering group to produce the community plan. Membership of the group was set by the Council. At its first meeting I was elected chairman. The task facing us was daunting. Tunbridge Wells was well behind other local authorities in Kent in commencing the process and we had a very short time-scale.
The group published a draft report and I addressed a meeting of the full council prior to the council agreeing the document be put out to consultation. We received comments from 50 organisations and over 160 individuals. Each comment was discussed by the group and this led to many alterations to the draft report.
The amended report was approved by the full council. Our task completed, we disbanded.
The group, well aware that its membership lacked a degree of legitimacy, insisted that within 12 months the plan be reviewed.
Tunbridge Wells Town Plan Advisory Group's membership was determined by the then Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. On his loss of his council seat he became chairman of the advisory group. The advisory group has no greater legitimacy that the community plan steering group and its report has not been subjected to public scrutiny and comment .prior to publication. Nor has the advisory group disbanded.
It is important that the recommendations of the advisory group are not granted an enhanced status, given the background to its formation, its membership and that it is only the opinion of a consensus of a majority of the group.