Campaigners urge fight over 15,000 new homes

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15 Sep 2011

Group claims borough's infrastructure could not cope

A GROUP opposing Swale Council's plans for thousands of new homes in the borough is urging people to join its campaign.

Swale Residents Against Housing Madness was formed to fight proposals that could lead to more than 15,000 homes built over the next 20 years.

Mike Baldock, who has chaired the group's two meetings held so far, is critical of the scale of housebuilding being considered.

"We think Swale Council's proposal for 13,500 to 15,000 new homes is ridiculous," he said. "If you have 15,000 homes - that's 15 estates the size of The Meads.

"People ask 'what about the roads?' They're already clogged up. Where are the houses going to go? What about schools?"

In January, the council started a three-month consultation on four options for development until 2031, with housing numbers starting at 13,500. There were fewer than 300 respondents and the majority were generally critical of all of them.

Mr Baldock said not enough people knew about the proposals. "As soon as people hear about this they are shocked," he said. "I don't think the previous consultation involved enough people and those that did respond rejected all four options."

The group features seven representatives from parishes across Swale and one of its aims is to raise awareness of what it describes as "your last chance to save our towns and villages".

It has so- far put 25,000 leaflets through letterboxes.

Mr Baldock said he was aware of the need for new homes to be built but argued the level could be a lot lower.

"We think it's about time we thought about something a bit more realistic. We are looking at putting a proposal together for 7,000," he said.

Leader of the council Tory Andrew Bowles stressed that no decision on housing numbers had been made, adding he was an environmentalist before becoming a councillor, and would look to build the least number possible.

"The consultation was clear," he said. "Anyone could come in with a lower number but it needs to be evidence-based."

The figure the council arrives at, he said, would be based on criteria being used in boroughs across Kent and would have to meet the needs of Swale's current population and anyone moving into the area.

"If we just build houses without growing the local economy we will just be creating even more of a commuter belt, with people dashing to London," he added.

Check out their report which cast even more doubt over the Councils decision making