Angry villagers slam build plans

28 Dec 2005

VILLAGERS are horrified by news that green-field sites near their homes could be thrown open to developers under government plans to build an extra 1,200 houses in the borough.

As we highlighted a fort-night ago, an inquiry starting in March could force borough councillors to consider sites previously classified as unsuitable for development under the local plan.

An emergency meeting of Tunstall Parish Council, held on Thursday, December 15, indicated the scale of the opposition to the development, with more than 30 villagers squeezing into the Midwinter Room of Tunstall Church to hear about the potential threat.

Vice-chairman Marilyn Atkins said: "I can't ever remember that many people turning up to a parish council meeting. We've printed flyers for every house in the parish, to make more people aware of the plans, but it's not just Tunstall — it's Borden, Bredgar, Wormshill. If you care about where you live, take steps to protect it."

Villagers' objections centre on the development of green-field sites which they believe will have a detrimental effect on the environment and on quality of life.

Many also believe thatSwale's infrastructure can not support so much additional housing. Mrs Atkins said: "We're eroding the country-side, and the landscape that is so precious in the south-east is being taken away.

"I don't think the infra-structure could cope with the volume of houses.

"I think quality of life comes in to it. You can't put people in little houses withtiny gardens, crammed together like chickens." Some villagers feel the Government's policies will protect their community from further development, on the grounds that extra housing would not be sustainable.

Bredgar Parish Council chairman Beverly Willis said: "I would be extremely surprised, but of course disappointed, if the inspector included Bredgar. It is not sustainable. Even in his wildest dreams or nightmares,deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's plans have always centred around large, but sustainable, communities.

"He's never suggested just dropping houses around willy nilly. One has to be concerned, but we do see it as another roll of the dice by developers."

More than 150 sites are included in the plans and the vast majority of these are on previously undeveloped land. Government inspector David Wildsmith will begin considering objections to the Swale Local Plan at a hearing on March 7.

He will then submit a report to Swale Council, outlining how the plan must be changed before it can be adopted. His decision is final.

Mrs Atkins said: "We're all hoping the inspector says no, but if he says a site can go in the local plan, then it will be included.

"There are so many sites. We're grateful to Swale Council for letting us know about them, they didn't have to. They've been fending off applications from all sides."

Tunstall parish councillor Carol Browning said: "It's not just that we don't want new houses, it's a broader view

"Nobody's really been told about it. The council doesn't have an obligation to tell us, but we'd like to see some changes so there is more consultation with the public.

"We are supporting Swale Council. If people want to object, then they should write to the council. The letters have to be in by January 9."

This article is used with the kind permission of The Gazette & Times