Who are we?
- We are a campaigning group set up by the parish councils of Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead, Rodmersham and Tunstall in 2004.
- Our villages are all located south of Sittingbourne, surrounded by in prime Kentish countryside, including apple, pear and cherry orchards, green fields, ancient woodlands, and prime agricultural land.
- In 2004 a newspaper article in the East Kent Gazette detailed a proposal for the expansion of Kent Science Park, including 10,000 houses, a M2/A2 link road and a huge expansion of industrial/business space.
- Villagers and parish councils were horrified and outraged at the plans.
How did we get started?
Rodmersham Parish Council first learnt of the Kent Science Park’s (KSP) proposals at a ‘closed’ meeting in January, 2004. Councillor Don Jordan (Swale Borough Councillor for the West Downs and a Rodmersham Parish Councillor) explained the ‘concept’ but as no formal planning application had been received by Swale Borough Council, there was little information available.
The proposals became public a fortnight later when an article, ‘Fury at proposal for new M2 link’ appeared in the local newspaper, the East Kent Gazette on 28 January. This stated Sittingbourne Research Centre (formerly Shell Research) planned to expand and to do so, needed a new junction leading from the M2 to the A2, which would ultimately be funded by the building of new houses. One thousand houses was the figure quoted in the article at the time, but the expansion proposals now feature 5000 homes, the majority located around Bapchild. However, in its objections to the Kent & Medway Structure Plan and the Swale Local Plan, the KSP actually requests 10,000 dwellings.
Rodmersham Parish Council wrote to other Parishes Councils for support and received a positive response from Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead and Tunstall. A representative from each Council formed The Five Parishes Opposition Group (FPOG), and later the Five Parishes Communications Team was established by residents to support the Group’s work and funding-raising.
In March 2004, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott unveiled the Kent Science Park, the new name for Sittingbourne Research Centre (formerly Shell Research Centre). His kick-start to the scheme was part of the drive ‘to encourage sustainable communities in the Thames Gateway’. The same month, Rodmersham Parish Council held a public meeting in March 2004 where residents had the opportunity to question Councillor Jordan, Brian Lloyd (Head of Swale Borough Council’s Local Plan), Derek Wyatt M.P. and Robert Williams, site manager from KSP. The hall held 100 but that night, over 250 angry residents attended and let their feelings be known.
Channelling into the residents’ anger, villagers were encouraged to register their support and/or objections to the draft of the Swale Local Plan. Policies that covered the protection of strategic gaps betweens villages, the preservation of woodland areas, the natural environment and the countryside were heavily supported, together with objections to the policy specifically covering KSP expansion.
It became quickly apparent that FPOG had a difficult and costly battle ahead. We employed Dr Wendy Le-Las and then Rosemary Lansdowne to represent our interests at the the Kent & Medway Structure Plan and again at the subsequent Swale Borough Local Plan.