Some of you may be aware that on the 15th June 2011, Fife Council started another round of consultations for the Lochgelly area with the draft plan, titled “Lochgelly Supplementary Planning and Transportation Guidance”.
Cllr John Beare, Strategic Chair of the Planning Committee said ” Our aim is to ensure that all new development in Lochgelly contributes positively to making Lochgelly an attractive and safe place to live, work and invest. In the long term Lochgelly town centre will be revitailised through support for existing businesses, redevelopment projects and improved connections from the town centre to the surrounding areas. We also need to improve perceptions of Lochgelly and encourage new investment in the town. I encourage everyone who is interested to take part in the consultation on this guidance document that will help make it all happen.”
For this article, we are going to look at the process of providing Fife Council feedback on the plans and the first flaws, not of the plans, but on how they are presented. We are going through the documentation and there is a few eye openers, so we will be doing several posts on the plans over the next few days.
Fife Council have started the consultation on the 15th June and the consultation will run until the 20th of July. To simplify the consultation it will be held online at: http://www.fifedirect.org.uk/lochgellyguidance, which leads us to our first criticisms.
Firslty, you can download a copy of the documentation papers for the consultation, this document is 90 pages in length, and I personally feel that around 60-70 pages of the document is not essential or relevant. The majority of the document provides generic background information regarding things such as green space developments, the importance of public pathways and nice areas, etc and filled up with images from other areas to reinforce their text.
The proposed developments do not fill half of the document, so there is a lot of unnecessary clutter to wade through before getting to the interesting parts which will be of most interest to people of Lochgelly.
a 90 page document is a lot of information to absorb, and with a limited time for the consultation, I can see that the size of the document will mean a lot of the parts are skimmed, if bothered to read at all.
The second issue relating to the document is related to the design aspect of the document. The most important parts of the document for the Lochgelly area are not using a plain font, but a fancier font, which is smaller than the other text used in the document, and I personally found it very difficult to read and had to zoom into the page before I could make sense of the text. This text might be better easy to read once the document is printed, but who is really going to print a 90 page document?
If we look at the Governments guidance notes on ‘A guide to accessible publishing’;
The rest of the document and irrelevant parts are all written in a plain font and very legible, yet the important parts are illegible and do not take into consideration that some readers will find the text to be very difficult to read.
If you wish to give your feedback during the consultation, then you are going to have to register your details with Fife Council, otherwise you cannot leave any feedback. This restriction I feel takes away the ‘public consultation’ element, (1) not everyone has an email address (2) not everyone has internet access, and (3) not everyone will want to register on another site and give away more personal data about themselves.
When you register with the site, you need to wait for the email from Fife Council which is confirming your email address. Once this gets through and you confirm and login to your account, you then have to go through 4 pages of questions requesting your personal data, thankfully not all the fields are required and can be skipped, but it is still an extensive way to collect data on users.
We’ve only briefly looked at the questions and will go back to them later after we have finished browsing through the document.
Making a more transparent and accessible consultation
Over the next week, the volunteers of the site will be publishing information from the document highlighting the important bits concerning Lochgelly and providing a reduced document which cuts through the clutter and providing the document in a much more legible format in line with government guidance. We will also be replicating the questions that are being asked by Fife Council on this site, which people can fill out anonymously (if they wish) which will not require any form of registration.
We will submit all replies as part of the group consultation section so that the views of the people that do not wish to register on the Fife Council site. For individuals that do want to have their say on the consultation, we do recommend registering and putting your opinions across.
We will also be publishing a basic interactive map of the changes proposed to Lochgelly to improve the ease of use for the document Fife Council has published.[dm]17[/dm]