We must wear a gag to have a vote

04 Oct 2006

IN REPLY to Adam Tolhurst's letter "Are Tories afraid of losing votes?" (Letters, September 20), I can say that the only vote I fear losing is my own.

It is a long standing Conservative policy that councillors can support their own wards against agreed council policy. The residents of West Downs and in particular Bapchild do not want the Kent Science Park with its 5,000 houses, or the possibility of 600 houses on Stones Farm.

It is my belief there is not a single member of the council who would agree to 5,000 houses – and anyway, that and the road do not appear in the current local plan which has already determined new housing sites for up to 2016 and will control development for the next four to five years at least.

The extra 600 houses is a direct imposition from central government. Where they go is in the hands of the Local Plan inspectors and, thanks to John Prescott, their findings cannot be challenged – unlike the previous time, when the inspector added Stones Farm site to the plan and Swale Council removed it.

The people of Bapchild have mounted a concerted campaign against having the houses at Stone Farm and, crucially, have suggested alternative sites.

As their ward member, I support them in their endeavours. However, again because of John Prescott's regulations, as the parish councils of the West Downs know, making this statement could be used to prevent me voting in the council on these subjects. If you think this is ridiculous, I agree, but just look at a report in the Daily Telegraph a couple of weeks ago highlighting a dozen or so cases nationwide of councillors being told if they had cars they shouldn't decide on car parks or phone masts if they had mobile phones! There was even a local ex-councillor who was investigated for over a year after talking about a wind turbine for a school, because his daughter was working for a wind turbine company.

If I have not gone to press on these subjects before, you can see why. Now that I have, it will probably restrict my right to speak on these matters in council. Welcome to democracy, John Prescott-style.

Cllr Don Jordan,
West Downs Ward.