Parish councils unite against Swale plans

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17 Aug 2011
Development scheme encounters widespread opposition

REPRESENTATIVES from ten parish councils who have joined forces to speak up against Swale Council’s plans for development in the borough are to meet again tonight (Wednesday).

Iwade Parish Council instigated a meeting last month to discuss the results of the Pick Your Own consultation into proposed housing and employment growth over the next 20 years.

Chairman of Iwade Parish Council Stephen Plumb, who chaired the meeting, said: “We took theinitiative to call the meeting because we were concerned.

“From our parish council’s point of view, Iwade has had a lot of development over the last 10 years and we could be receiving a considerable amount of new housing on top of what’s already committed.”

Under the consultation, people were asked for their opinions on four development options, each including at least 13,500 new homes to be built by 2031 and hundreds of thousands of square feet of new employment space.

There was widespread opposition to the plans and last month’s meeting was attended by representatives from Iwade, Newington, Bapchild, Borden, Bobbing, Bredgar, Eastchurch, Hartlip, Minster and Teynham parish councils.

Concerns were raised that parishes are being pitted against each other in terms of where new housing should go.

It was also suggested that feedback from the consultation, which was described as “inconclusive” at a meeting of senior Swale councillors, should be sent to everyone in the borough, rather than simply put in a report on the council website.

Brian Lloyd, Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) Kent senior planner, addressed the parish meeting and suggested an alternative option, saying the charity could not support any of those put forward by Swale.

The main thrust of CPRE’s proposal is upgrading Junction 5 of the M2 to ease congestion, then postponing the completion of the Northern Relief Road and reassessing whether it is needed
once the affect of the Stockbury roundabout improvements have been felt.

Other ideas include focussing housing in urban not rural areas, improving employment opportunities at existing businesses rather than building new ones and halting the expansion of Kent Science Park until the future of the former Pfizer site at Sandwich is known.

CPRE also proposed the reclamation of land from the sea to create new deep water berths at Sheerness Port as well as housing and employment opportunities.

A spokesman said: “I wouldn’t like to second guess on whether the collective will be able to change key decision makers’ minds. However there is another meeting scheduled, which will hopefully be even better attended than the first and, should support grow for our ideas, we may be able to shape the core strategy for Swale and enhance it.”
Deputy leader of Swale Council Councillor Gerry Lewin said the Pick Your Own consultation ended in March, adding: “We must stress at that stage the council had not taken a decision on any particular option or indeed a hybrid of these options. That is still the position as of today.”

He said decisions on how to proceed will be made in December and people will be asked for their opinions on a draft development plan for the borough, known as the Core Strategy