Re: Questionnaire - New Brighton Plan

I have been given a copy of the questionnaire recently circulated in New Brighton and asked for my views, my comments are based on 16 years experience of undertaking survey, and I am Head of the Liverpool Evaluation Unit at the University of Liverpool.

You are to be congratulated on spending the time and effort to collect the views of the local community in relation to this plan. However, the questionnaire falls well short of the standards of good practice involved with this kind of work.

It is essential that those developing any questionnaire do so from a scrupulously neutral stance. No attempt can be made to lead or shape opinion.

There are three examples of bias incorporated into this questionnaire, two of them blatant.

1. Question One.
The information about the previous questionnaire represents 'inadmissible evidence'. It operates to make those who would vote 'no' believe they are in a meaningless minority. 'A no vote is a wasted vote' is the hidden message here.

But, what are you voting for if you vote 'yes'? Certainly, given the very vague wording, you are not voting for the plan.

2. Question Two.
The information given here is erroneous. The cost - having checked with civil engineers - would be closer to £50,000. Putting in misinformation to imply keeping the lake open is not feasible is very poor practice. This is a clear example of 'leading the witness'.

3. While it is permissible to include information to enhance respondents' understanding, it cannot be in the form incorporated into this questionnaire. Words like "deliverable", "are necessary", "cannot simply choose", lead people to respond in favour of the plan. People can choose what they like without any counterbalancing alternative viewpoint. Such 'information' represents propaganda.

People who purport to represent a community must do so with integrity. They must accept that within any group there will be a wide range of viewpoints. They must not seek to shape opinion to fit in with their own perceptions.

I am sharing this my concerns with the Electoral Reform Society and will make these objections public in due time. Ian Taylor
Head of Liverpool Evaluation Unit, University of Liverpool

Mr Taylor.

Many thanks for your communication regarding the New Brighton Community Partnership's Questionnaire to the New Brighton Community.

I'm not quite sure how or why you have become involved and would be most grateful if you would explain this to me.

I have made enquiries at the University and can't find any information that leads me to understand that it is part of your remit there.

Also, as you mention the Electoral Reform Society, I have contacted them and they don't feel that it is anything which would involve them - in fact they were inclined to be amused at the thought that they might be asked to become involved........

However - I thank you for your comments and it seems to me that we share a concern - the integrity required when communicating with the community.

New Brighton Community Partnership has been communicating with the New Brighton Community for 7 years in the form of a newsletter called the New Brighton Walrus which we put out quarterly to 7,000 households in New Brighton.

This is delivered by about 100 volunteers and printed at the Partnership's own expense as part of its remit to communicate with and involve the community in local affairs. Perhaps you have seen a copy?

Two years ago when the Neptune Proposals were first made public we put out a Questionnaire - I have attached a copy of it, the results and the comments made by the first 100 received back - listing the different elements of the scheme and giving people the opportunity to comment on each of them. As a result of their views and comments Neptune Developments made several changes to the plans at that time.

As part of our ongoing communication with the community, now that the proposal has altered significantly, we have again communicated with the community telling them of the changes and inviting their comments and views.

The preparation of the Questionnaire involved some 27 members of our Partnership - all of whom represent groups within the community - and contains information from Neptune Developments themselves and from those involved in the day to day operation of Marine Lake.

The intention behind the Questionnaire is to make the whole community aware of the full extent of what is being planned, to urge them to take the opportunity to see the plans for themselves and to find out as much as possible about them, and only then to tell us whether or not they are happy with them.

At the time that it was put out the plans were on view at New Brighton Community Centre and there were people available to answer any questions. Our Questionnaire was as much to advertise this fact as to secure the views of the community.

The results of our Questionnaire are to be seen on our website - www.newbrightonwalrus.co.uk - where they have been updated daily as they have been received and counted. To date only 107 of the comments have been typed up - the rest will be done as soon as possible - and they also are on the website. They present a very varied picture of the thoughts and emotions of the community on this subject which has preoccupied the New Brighton community for as long as I can remember and are well worth reading.

We only had 490 replies which is disappointing but is 7% of the 7,000 issued and I am told that between 5 and 10% is what would normally be expected from a survey of this kind - you would probably know more about that than I would.

View this against a petition which has gained thousands of signatures by simply telling people that the Marine Lake is going to be filled in and a Supermarket built there.

Take into account that that is simply not true - the Marine Lake is indeed going to be filled in but an open air swimming pool is to be built on the site, a new Lake created a little further down, and a Supermarket built between the two, only partly on the Lake site - and you might start worrying about integrity.

I have lived in New Brighton since 1949 and have been very much aware of the ongoing debate s I have grown up and made my life here.

Personally, along with lot of other people, I love New Brighton as it is.

As Chair of the New Brighton Community Partnership I am very much aware of the decline in its fortunes and the desperate need for some sort of facelift. My concern is that New Brighton may become a derelict little corner of the Wirral while the rest of the Wirral moves on.

What should be happening at the moment is an intelligent and thoughtful debate on New Brighton's past, present and future in the light of the opportunity offered by the Neptune proposals. We should be looking to get the best result out of this for New Brighton.

Instead there is a hysterical, aggressive, emotional and hostile outburst based on limited information which is doing nobody any good - particularly New Brighton.

Anyone - like New Brighton Community Partnership - who does not fall in line is criticised and made out to be some kind of opposition. I find this shocking. New Brighton and it's future deserve better!!

I am aware that what I have written here will probably be used, selectively, against me. I will be circulating your email to me and this response to all members of the Partnership. Unfortunately, our webmaster is no away for 2 weeks so I am unable to have it posted on the website immediately but will do so on his return.

Rusty Keane.

From: Steve McGovern, Stanley Avenue
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2004 3:22 PM
Subject: New Brighton Supermarket
Dear Mrs Keane,

Can you tell me why it is, that you continue to support the proposed development of the Marine Lake by Neptune Developments?

It must be apparent to you by now, that local feeling is against the scheme and that your questionnaire to residents, delivered no conclusive result due to low returns. Does your organisation intend to impose this scheme on us and 'to hell' with so called democratic consultation? It certainly seems that way to me and I for one, will do everything I can do to interfere with the cosy relationship you and your organisation seem to have developed with third parties who have a vested interest in obtaining your approving 'nod'.

You represent the vehicle tasked with a consultation brief on matters concerning the regeneration for this town. I have followed with close interest, the schemes you are for and those schemes you are against. If one examines your public comment on those schemes, it becomes apparent that there is no consistency in your views and that they are personal ones rather than those considered following consultation with those people you supposedly represent. I have come to the conclusion in recent days, that your agenda has become distorted and has turned its back on genuine, concerned residents who feel rightly aggrieved when 'big bucks' can so easily turn the heads of those entrusted with our aspirations and visions for a dynamic and prosperous New Brighton.

Steve McGovern

Mr McGovern

Thank you for your email which I have read very carefully.

It seems that you are angry with me for not agreeing with you.

We live in a democratic country based on the principle -"I may not agree with what you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it."

New Brighton Community Partnership has communicated with the New Brighton community through our quarterly newsletter the New Brighton Walrus for 7 years. It is put together and printed at our expense and 7,000 copies are delivered by nearly 100 volunteers to every household ( we hope) in New Brighton. We do this to keep the community informed about what goes on locally and to give anyone who wishes the opportunity to communicate themselves.

Perhaps you have seen a copy?

When the Neptune plans were first made public 2 years ago we put out a Questionnaire - 7,000 in the same way - giving all the information that was available at the time and asking people to give their views.

I attach the results of that survey. I think you will find the variety of the comments interesting ranging as they do across a variety of opinions.

We were very pleased that 1,100 Questionnaires were returned at that time.

Now that the Neptune plan has changed we have again put out a Questionnaire - simpler this time and again giving all the information that was available to us at the time.

Our questionnaire urges people to go and see the plans for themselves before filling it in and gives the opportunity for people to say whether or not they are happy with the changes and also gives space for comment.

Disappointingly only 490 people returned the Questionnaire this time - 7% of the number put out.

I am told that this is not a bad response to this kind of survey - usually between 5 and 10% are expected to be returned.

The point is that people were given the opportunity.

This is called democracy

I attach the results and the comments which I have typed up so far - again a very varied expression of people's opinions on this very emotional subject.

You will find the results and comments posted on our website - www.newbrightonwalrus.co.uk.

You say that I support this Development. That is not quite correct.

I have lived in New Brighton since 1949 and throughout these 50+ years the debate about New Brighton has continued with people expressing the wish for New Brighton to be developed and others opposing it.

2 years ago the Partnership asked the community what they thought and were given a mandate to support the Development.

This recent survey has again given us a mandate to support the plans even though there has been a lesser return. You don't discount the results of an election because there is a low turn-out.........

There have been at least 2 other surveys done - one by Neptune themselves at the Exhibition at the Community Centre and the other by Wallasey Civic Society. The results of both show clear support for the plans.

Compare this with a petition which tells people that the Marine Lake is going to be filled in and a Supermarket built there. No wonder thousands of people are signing it. I would myself if I didn't know that there was actually going to be an open air swimming pool on the site of the Lake - (with heated water and open as such for only 4 months of the year - it is proposed that it will be an ice rink for the rest of the year) - with a new Lake being constructed further down the Promenade with a Supermarket between the two and only partly on the site of the present Lake.

And then there are the rest of the proposals.........

You make some very strange remarks about my "0rganisation" imposing things on the community. We are a Community Partnership made up of representatives of community groups and have no powers of the kind you suggest. We just want the best for New Brighton and it's community and, as volunteers, do what we can in this direction.

If the community had told us - either 2 years ago or in this recent survey - that they did not want the development then that is the view that we would be putting forward.

But they didn't. So we haven't.

I will be posting your email and this reply on the website along with any other communications I receive on the subject.

Unfortunately our webmaster is away at the moment so this will not be able to be done until he returns.

Regarding my views which you say have become distorted etc.... could you be more specific please as I am at a loss to understand what you could be referring to.

Many thanks

Rusty Keane. Miss.