Published: 00:01, 19 May 2017
A “co-ordinated physical presence” by protesters opposing the Otterpool housing development affected a public consultation on the plans, according to a report.
It emerged this week that 61% of feedback opposed the proposals for a 12,000-home garden town, proposed by Shepway District Council and Cozumel Estates.
A total of 398 feedback cards were submitted during the consultations, attended by 519 people in the area, last December.
The report, produced by community engagement team Kevin Murray Associates, said: “Attendees were greeted on arrival and then stopped on leaving by members of this group.
"They were given a copy of a leaflet and encouraged to submit a ‘no Otterpool New Town’ response.
“This would suggest a significant proportion of people who attended may not necessarily have been interested in shaping the proposals for Otterpool Park per se, but rather in expressing their opposition to the principle of the proposal.”
“This is a normal situation that occurs in the early planning of major projects where this is yet to be a plan with explanations that people are able to engage with directly.
“The terms of the leaflet clearly had an impact on the way some participants responded and should also be borne in mind when reviewing all the other feedback.”
The report notes that 243 (61%) feedback cards were against the development.
But it pointed out: “Many were multiple individual and/or household submissions” and this figure represented “a lower percentage in terms of actual people”.
The report acknowledged a majority of those attending opposed the scale of a garden town but noted not all opposed the principle of new housing and community facilities.
It added: “The events were all attended by a pressure group lobbying against development.
“This affected the nature, feel and output from the events and many of the views expressed were reflections of points made by the campaigning group.”
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