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"To put the record straight, the owners of Kent Science Park have no wish to develop homes in the vicinity of the science park"

James Speck

Head-to-head over science park plans

CAMPAIGNERS battling Kent Science Park's controversial expansion plans hope they will inspire villagers to vote one of their members on to Swale Council.

Five Parishes Opposition Group chairman Monique Bonney is standing as an independent in the forthcoming local elections. And with Labour and the Lib Dems not putting up candidates, it will be a head-to-head on May 3 with West Downs ward councillor Tory Don Jordan.

This group, which has adopted "Conservation not Devastation" as one of its war cries, represents the parishes
of Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead, Rodmersham and 7lmstall, the majority of which are in West Downs ward.

The area would be heavily affected by plans for thou-sands of new homes, an A2-M2 link road, country park and enlarged science park, south of Sittingbourne.

Miss Bonney said: "I feel particularly aggrieved that the Conservatives say they are against the proposals, but still support an A2/M2 link road and expansion of the park. "They have a very big back door open to allow these proposals through.

"I am doing this to keep driving the group's message home. If the Tories think they might lose a seat, they might take it more seriously."

Cllr Don Jordan, who intends to stand again, said he did not want to comment until the list of those standing was officially released, due to be confirmed today.

However, he reiterated his party's stance on the science park, saying the Tories were against the housing plans and opposed to expansion of the park outside its boundary.

On the issue of the road, Cllr Jordan added that the principle of a new link with the M2 was worthy of investigation, but that the party did not agree with what the park was pro-posing.

The Sittingbourne and Sheppey Labour group said its decision not to field a candidate for West Downs ward was to give voters freedom to express their views on the science park proposals.

Labour leader Cllr Angela Harrison explained: "We recognised some time ago that the West Downs election this year would come down to being a public referendum on the Kent Science Park proposals.

"With the Five Parishes Opposition Group putting up a candidate, we felt it would be in the best interests of democracy to let the public show their opposition by backing a single candidate.

"We apologise to Labour supporters in the West Downs ward but we feared that party candidates might confuse the issue this time."

The move is backed by Labour MP Derek Wyatt, who has been an active supporter of the opposition group from the beginning.

Mr Wyatt said: "However hard they try to spin it, the local Tories at every level have given the green light to the KSP ambitions. They have a candidate who, as a cabinet member on Swale council, has to take responsibility for the prevailing council policy.

"So voters have a simple choice – to back the ruling group on Swale council, or support the Five Parishes Opposition Group.

"As a West Downs voter, 1 will be voting for Monique Bonney."

Lib Dem election agent Berwick Tomes explained his party's stance, saying: "The best way for the community to decide who should represent them is a candidate that represents the most pressing issue. "We would normally like to offer a Lib Dem alter-native, but this is a referendum on a single issue."


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