Be careful of the company you keep

04 Oct 2006

I HAVE been following the debates in the EKG over the Kent Science Park plans and other local issues and would wish to make the following comments.

It is a well-known fact that it is this Labour government's policy to impose increasing housing numbers on the south east of England, far above the numbers required for natural population growth. At every stage, Kent County Council and Swale Council have been trying to resist that pressure from Government to build more houses without the proper infrastructure and jobs.

If Swale Council refused to accommodate those imposed housing numbers in the local plan, the government inspector would allocate those areas he deemed fit to accommodate those numbers and, under the Government's new planning system, Swale Council could not influence the inspector's decision, or change it. It would become planning policy.

It concerns me that when it comes to the delivery, this Government falls short – for example the safety issues now raised over the new Sheppey Crossing.
It concerns me that, when first released, the Queenborough and Rushenden link road had not received finance from central government; then at a later stage it had, but was several million pounds short of producing the full link. This may mean more housing and reduced community facilities to pay for this critical infrastructure.

I, and I am sure many local people, feel short-changed over this by the Government. We will continue to push for full funding.
With regard to the Kent Science Park, if we have to accommodate the Government with extra housing, it follows that we have to provide space for extra employment. The park, although not in an ideal position, has a core hub of quality businesses and amenities that could attract new businesses to the area. What it does not have is the road infrastructure to link it to the M2.

Yet again, it is the Government and the Government's highways agency that refuses to allow that. link without linking to the A2.
And, by the way, they would not wish to fund this link, hence the science park plans for more houses and more jobs to fund this link. This would conform to Labour government policy. It does not conform to Swale Council policy in the local plan, now with the government inspector.

When I first became a Swale councillor in May 2002, I was appointed to the economic scrutiny committee. In the summer of that year, we visited the science park, where Cllrs Whelan and Truelove (Labour) explored and welcomed its plans for expansion, including a road linking the A2 to the M2 with some housing to fund it, although at that time no numbers were given. Just because of the scale of the road, it would have been a big number.

So when you read letters from the science park about our local plan and criticising Conservative councillors, just remember this is a policy that is being pushed by Government, a huge social engineering project in most part supported by your local Labour party.

So I would say to the Five Parishes action group and its residents: be careful who you jump into bed with.

As for Cllr Don Jordan, if he was to express a firm view at this time and was called to make a decision on this plan at a latter date, he would have to declare an interest and not take part in that decision. I can understand his and other councillors' reluctance to speak on the subject, or other planning planning issues.

Cllr John Wright,
Newington, Hartlip and Upchurch.