‘Hybrid’ homes plan in motion

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10 Aug 2011
13,500 houses set to be built in 20 years

ALL four development options for thousands of new homes and business space put forward by Swale Council proved unpopular with the public, so a mixture of them all will be pursued.

The Pick Your Own consultation asked Swale residents to comment on proposals for between 13,500 and 18,500 homes to be built in the borough over the next 20 years.

However, after assessing the results, spatial planning policy manager Gill Harris told Swale’s Local Development Framework Panel on Thursday : “There was no clear preference for one particular option we consulted on. We are going to draft a hybrid preferred option for the way forward over the next 20 years.”

The council is to work on building 13,500 homes, based on population increase, the need for affordable housing and the expectation that people will want to move to Swale to work.

Councillor Truelove asked for no more housing to be built in Iwade. He said: “We would simply be building more housing without the infrastructure to support it. Let’s stop thinking of Iwade as an outlet for development.”

Tory Councillor Lloyd Bowen, ward councillor for Teynham and Lynsted, made a similar plea on behalf of Teynham residents.

He said: “Please don’t use Teynham as a dumping ground for housing. It’s a village, it’s not part of Sittingbourne.”

In terms of jobs, Miss Harris said the Eurolink industrial estate provides more than 6,000 jobs and is capable of “supplying a further steady source of economic development ”.

Development

She also identified Kent Science Park (KSP) as being “critical” to the delivery of the whole development plan for the borough.

Miss Harris described the former Shell research centre as a “considerable regeneration opportunity for Swale and Kent”.

There was cross-party agreement that hopes for new jobs should not be pinned on the park and focus should shift instead to the Eurolink.

Labour ’s Councillor Roger Truelove said years had been wasted waiting for the science park to take off.

He said: “Much more important is the Eurolink. It’s successful and can be developed. Let’s stop wasting time with Kent Science Park.”

Tory Councillor Alan Willicombe believed businesses might bypass KSP and set up on the old Pfizer site instead.

He added: “Kent Science Park had such high aspirations but it hasn’t achieved much of what it set out to achieve. We’re putting our faith in a park that hasn’t gone far enough quick enough.”

However, Council leader Councillor Andrew Bowles, also Conservative, warned members not to “dismiss it out of hand”.

In response to what was said at the meeting, KSP site director James Speck said he had been in regular contact with Swale. “The studies we have completed make a convincing case for the benefits to the Swale economy of science park expansion”, he said. “No other site in Swale can offer the same potential for economic diversification and skilled employment.

“Our evidence will be available to the public towards the end of the year. By that time it will be thoroughly checked by independent consultants for Swale.”

View the report at www.swale.gov.uk

Report by Suz Elvey
East Kent Gazette

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