Candidates fight a two-horse race
04 May 2011Residents demand answers on local issues
A SITTINGBOURNE ward at the heart of huge issues relevant to the whole of Swale will see a head-to-head election contest.
It will be a two-horse race for West Downs, which includes Bapchild, Rodmersham, Milstead and Bredgar, where residents have fought house-building proposals, the expansion of Kent Science Park and, more recently, the route of the final section of the Northern Relief Road to the A2.
Independent Monique Bonney, who won the seat from Tory Don Jordan four years ago, is up against Conservative Mike Whiting.
Mr Whiting, 52, who is married with two children and lives in Bobbing, said he wanted to stand for election somewhere where there is a "fight worth fighting and winning".
On the threat of new housing, he said: "There are areas of countryside we need to protect and we cannot allow development of rural areas when there are better options."
Improvements to the road network are required, he said, particularly with Stones Farm at Bapchild earmarked for 600 new homes. "A road that can take traffic onto A249 is something we need to be considering. With the Northern Relief Road, we need a route that's more environmentally friendly and does not cut through the country park.
"I believe there should be a link between A2 and M2 but where that road goes is a matter for planners. There's a lot standing in the way of a southern relief road, including the £126 million cost. But it
does not need to be paid for through building houses. I'm very clear on that."
Kent Science Park's expansion plans have been the cause of much controversy and Mr Whiting, the Swale Central county councillor, said he would oppose further building work proposals beyond its current boundary, should they materialise.
Other important issues, he added, included safeguarding the minibus service that replaced the Postbus, ensuring school places and broadband access.
Mrs Bonney, who lives with her husband and young son in Rodmersham, is chairman of the Five Parishes Opposition Group, set up to fight the expansion of Kent Science Park.
It was proposals for an extended KSP that motivated Mrs Bonney to stand for election in 2007. She said she remains opposed to the park extending beyond its security fence.
A southern relief road is not the answer to Sittingbourne's traffic problems, she said, adding: "I oppose the ill-conceived A2/M2 link road from Bexon Lane, Bredgar to Bapchild as this will not relieve the town congestion in Sittingbourne and the flow of traffic on the A2 between Bapchild and Faversham."
Mrs Bonney described Kent County Council's proposed route for the final section of the NRR as "monstrous" and vowed to continue to support Bapchild residents in battling the plans.
She has also pledged to help Bredgar residents in their efforts to remove an unauthorised gypsy camp and to continue to campaign for a lower speed limit for upper Rodmersham, having successfully lobbied for a lower limit elsewhere in the village.