Once it's gone, it's gone forever

16 Aug 2006

I GREW up in Longridge, Sittingbourne, until I left for university in 1984. I still have family in the town and I visit whenever I can. Although I now live in Guernsey, I read the East Kent Gazette every week.

I have followed the Kent Science Park story, initially with amusement (surely they can't be serious?) and more recently with dismay. These people are not joking after all, even though they seem to have no backing from a university (I used to live in Cambridge which has real science parks, not light industrial estates as seems proposed).

My wife asked me if I thought the plans for 5,000 new houses would be passed, to which I replied "yes, unless the people of Sittingbourne can really unite and show the true strength of their opposition to these plans "

Even if you have never written, e-mailed or telephoned to express your opposition to something in the past, now is the time. Use every legal method available — and as soon as possible — to make it known these plans are bad news for the people of Sittingbourne and surrounding villages.

The plans appear to be driven solely by the greed of developers, who want to make yet more easy money by covering open, green farmland with concrete, with no concern whatsoever regarding the effect on schools, roads and doctors' surgeries, let alone the beautiful countryside. Remember, once it's gone, it's gone.

I was taken by the irony of the developer's comments that you cannot cherry-pick items from the scheme. My mum used to cherry-pick in the orchards near where we lived and, no, we can't cherry-pick now because the orchards have all gone...

The deputy prime minister's office seems absolutely determined to ruin Kent in the name of economic progress (29 per cent increase in the population?), with no real regard for the quality of life or well-being of the thousands who live in the county and in Swale in particular.

Local government seems helpless in the face of pressure from central government for waves of new buildings to go up, even though we are worried about water supplies for the existing population, not to mention congestion.

And who will live in all these new houses? The birth rate seems stable and new immigrants will presumably find it difficult to afford these properties, so I expect they will be filled with commuters who work in London and shop elsewhere, too. Someone, somewhere, has to say "no, enough's enough".

You really don't want to take your children and grandchildren out for a walk in the future, pointing sadly at new housing estates and say: "See that, I remember when that was open, green space". You have lost enough already and if there must be new development, it needs to be sustainable, on brownfield sites wherever possible and it must not ruin your quality of life.

You are being treated like a corridor between France and London, nothing more — and you deserve better.

The following story might interest your readers. There was a recent "offer" by a developer to build a replacement airport "for free" in Alderney, also in the Channel Islands. However, it turned out that the developer needed to build luxury homes as well to help finance the scheme. Islanders told the developer what he could do with his airport and the scheme folded. Local politicians felt the strength of public opinion and saw that they were on to a loser.

Can I encourage you to do the same, so that this developer for the so-called Kent Science Park can crawl back under a rock until they can dream up a scheme to ruin someone else's life.

And if it really is such a great idea as they say, let the science park stand on its own two feet, without a ridiculous housing development.

Andy Shilling
Guernsey, Channel Islands.