Demonstrators plan second development protest
02 Feb 2011CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect huge swathes of countryside around Sittingbourne from development are-once again calling on people to join a protest march.
The Five Parishes Opposition Group (5POG) is mobilising its supporters to demonstrate opposition to what it describes as "monstrous" plans for an expanded Kent Science Park, "unnecessary" homes and a needless A2/M2 link road.
Formed in 2004, the group - representing Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead, Rodmersham and Tunstall - hopes to repeat the success of a similar march four years ago, which saw 200 people turn out in support.
The mass demonstration has been planned in light of Swale Council's consultation on four broad options for what should be built and where up until 2031.
The options include large-scale expansion plans for the science park, vehemently opposed by 5POG.
Group spokesman Andy Hudson claimed the expanded park relied on a motorway link to the M2, which could not be paid for without building thousands of new homes.
He poured scorn on the idea that a spur road accessing just the park would be possible, as it would be at odds with Government policy "Government policy demands the new motorway junction has to connect to a major road such as the A2. Therefore the KSP expansion plans and the housing are inextricably linked," he said.
Mr Hudson questioned the need for a southern link road, which it has been suggested would add to traffic problems at the Stockbury roundabout.
In response, Kent Science Park site director James Speck said: "The expansion of the park is fundamental to the regeneration of Swale in terms of jobs, higher incomes and retaining greater spending in the borough.
"We are obviously disappointed that 5POG feel it necessary to protest. We would welcome a discussion on what they see as alternative proposals that secure the long term future growth, jobs and prosperity for Swale."
Mr Speck said a Southern Relief Road would transform the town economically, unlock employment growth in other areas and dramatically reduce rat running through villages.
He continued: "The council's Option 3 proposes that any future housing will be concentrated in existing urhan areas,"
Council leader Andrew Bowles said it was important for as many people as possible to take part in the consultation.
He said: "It's not just about four options. People could come up with ideas." commeming on the protest march, he maintained the council had a duty to provide enough homes for Swale residents.
Cllr Bowles said young people were being priced out of the market and forced to move away from the area. "Our people have to make a choice. Do we build or do we displace our young people or accept an ever increasing rise in homelessness?"
Thousands of leaflets about 5POG are due to be delivered this week. The protest march will take place on Saturday, February 26, starting at the Wilkinson end of the High Street.