Villagers rally to halt plans for Science Park expansion

02 Mar 2011

SHOPPERS and retailers cheered and waved as protesters from the Five Parish Opposition Group (FPOG) marched along Sittingbourne High Street on Saturday.

More than 100 people braved the cold, wet weather to demonstrate their disapproval at proposals to expand Kent Science Park and build housing on countryside around the town.

Protest March

Spokesman for FPOG Andy Hudson said: "It was really nice to see how many people came out of the shops to wave and cheer us along.

"There were people tagging on to the back of the group as we went along and at one point a whole family ran over and joined us.

"It was a positive experience and I think we achieved our goal of raising public awareness."

As the group marched towards Swale House, West Downs borough councillor Monique Bonney and Borden parish councillor Mike Baldock took turns with a megaphone, leading the protesters into chants of, "Save our villages," "Hedgerow not housing," and, "Garden of England, not the backyard."

Swale Council leader Councillor Andrew Bowles met the delegation outside the council offices and in response to questions such as, "Will we get a fair hearing?" and, "Will you listen to our views?" he encouraged people to respond to the council's "Pick your own" consultation, an initiative looking at development in the borough over the next 20 years.

County councillor Mike Whiting, who took part in the protest, said new housing and employment opportunities should be built close to existing roads and public transport, rather than in the countryside. He said: "I am opposed to

expansion of the Kent Science Park and opposed to massive housing developments south of the A2, between the A2 and the M2. Kent Science Park has a number of vacant units, and already has land available to develop if it wants to. I cannot see the need to increase the size of the park beyond what is currently available there."

FPOG was set up in 2004 to represent Bapchild, Bredgar, Milstead, Tunstall and Rodmersham.

Jane Noak, 81, of Snipes Hill, said:

"We tend to shrug our shoulders and think 'What can anybody do? It's just life'. This protest might make a difference, it might not, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do."

Lee Burgess, 21, is a UKIP councillor on Tunstall Parish Council.

He said: "I will be directly affected if KSP expands. The village doesn't want more houses and we don't want a link road. If the science park wants to expand there are plenty of other spaces it can go."

Penny Norris, 65, of The Street, Bapchild, said:

"When I look out of my window I can see lovely fields and now it is going to be ruined."

Mrs Norris added that many existing homes in Bapchild experience problems with sewage flooding their gardens.

Neville Jordan, 80, has lived in Rodmer-sham all his life.

He said: "We don't need expansion. There is the whole town centre and industrial estates in Sittingbourne if we need more business expansion. I hope it does make a difference and I hope I will make my point heard."