If an existing Councillor, what do you consider your best achievements in the last four years? N/A
What are voters’ main priorities in your ward? The Labour Party locally has been talking to electors in Abbey Ward for over 18 months. We have knocked on hundreds of doors. We have also held many market stalls in the town centre. The main concerns that people have raised have been lack of and delays in providing infrastructure for the new housing developments around the town, increasing traffic partly as a result of the new development, the speed of traffic in the town and the Cleve Hill Solar Park.
Have current councillors have spent our money wisely since the last elections? No. At Swale Council, the Tories have borrowed £28 million to bail out the developers involved in construction of the cinema/restaurant and housing development which forms part of the regeneration of Sittingbourne Town Centre. Although there are good reasons why Faversham Town Council needed to purchase 12 Market Place to use as council offices, the council has not put together a good enough business plan to ensure the effective use of the ground floor as a heritage attraction.
Many local people are disappointed about controversial decisions made by councillors behind closed doors e.g. the war memorial garden, buying the former shoe shop at 12 Market Place. What is your view? Should they have been made in secret? Decisions by councils should not be made in secret. The town and borough council meetings are open to the public. In addition, the change of use and works to 12 Market Place were the subject of a planning application. The redevelopment of the war memorial garden was the subject of press articles and a plan displayed on site.
Is Faversham’s local government transparent enough? If not, how would you improve openness and accountability? It is important to encourage public engagement with local government. Councillors should be available to the electorate by phone and email and at surgeries. There should be meetings in formats so that people can ask questions of councillors. This could include reinstatement by Swale Council of Area Forums and a committee system so that more councillors are involved in decision making.
How would you develop opportunities for the town to draw on its heritage? The speed of traffic in the town should be reduced (see also air pollution section below). In addition, the amount of traffic passing through the town centre should be reduced and regulations controlling this enforced. The network of alleys and footpaths should be better signposted with destinations and walking times added as has been done in other towns in Kent. This should include more pedestrian crossings to make the footpath network easier and safer to use. The heritage of the town can be better promoted using the Heritage Hub in 12 Market Place working with other museums in the town so that visitors and local people have an opportunity to learn more about the growth and development of the town and the factors which influenced this.
How should our creek be regenerated to boost local tourism whilst preserving its character and maritime heritage? Labour supports the campaign for a working, opening bridge together with sluice gates to manage the silting of the creek channel. This has been delayed by the failure of KCC to engage with Peel Ports (or their predecessors, Medway Ports) to put together the finance for this. New development around the creek should comply with the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan. Public access along the creek on both sides should be improved so that people can walk from the town to open countryside along the waterway.
How can local infrastructure (traffic, road network, shops, schools, medical facilities, social care, local law enforcement) cope with all the new residential developments without damaging the environment further? Much of this is determined by national government policies. Cuts to the funding of local authorities and health authorities mean that money for schools, health centres, recreation space, new roads and other infrastructure has to be raised by ‘planning gain’ from development. The extent of facilities and infrastructure required has to be set out in local plans at a level where it would not adversely affect the viability of development so that it does not take place at all. This also applies to the provision of affordable housing, whatever the definition of the product that is to be supplied. If elected, Labour will campaign that the infrastructure already planned in the developments already approved is provided including new schools and health facilities and also the commercial development that formed part of the planned schemes. In further developments, Labour will press for provision of appropriate levels of infrastructure and for affordable housing products that reflect the needs of the local community as has been proposed by other councils.
What is your view on the proposed solar power station threatening Graveney Marshes? Labour is totally opposed to the Solar Power Station at Cleve Hill. We have registered with the Planning Inspectorate who will make the decision and have made submissions on the impact of the scheme on wildlife, traffic during construction and running the site, on socio-economic effects and on the landscape and visual impact of such a large scheme on the area. We intend to be represented and take part in any future public inquiry.
What role do you think party politics should play in Local Government? As a member of the Labour Party, I consider that party politics should play a part in local government. Many local decisions are affected by regulations and policies created by party based national politics. This is clearly demonstrated in the discussion of ‘planning gain’ above. At a local level, cross-party co-operation can help in some areas and members of the town and borough council should work together for the benefit of the town.
Are you a Freemason? Should members of such organisations standing for public office be required to declare their membership? I am not a Freemason. I am in favour of members of organisations or having any other potential conflicts of interest declaring them.
Are you in favour of increasing Swale Borough Council’s contribution to Faversham Swimming Pools? Is the current level of council funding for the facility adequate in your view? Faversham Pools are an important asset for the town and many people who come from other places in the area to use them. They are run by an independent charitable trust, not under a contract from the Council as at Sittingbourne and Sheppey. The have received grants and other funding from Swale Council for refurbishment but this is never enough.
Where do you stand on proposed cuts to Faversham Library’s opening hours? The Library is another essential facility in the town. It now includes an accessible toilet and also provides the registry office. Labour opposed the cuts to library hours and organised the non-party campaign including a petition and members collected signatures outside the library and in the market place. As a result, Faversham has at least maintained library hours on the higher level in Kent but any loss of hours is still regrettable.
What more should be done for young people in the town? There has not been any adequate replacement for the facilities that were provided for the town by the former Faversham Youth Centre in South Road. This was part of an early stage of Tory cuts. There is some provision at West Faversham Community Centre but this does not cover the whole town. There should be funding to help young people to come together in other ways than sport or formal youth organisations such as cadets or the scout movement. The local play areas should all be refurbished and kept in good condition, and this is something Labour has campaigned for.
What is your view on Swale Councillor Andrew Bowles’ retweet describing Islamophobic extremist ‘Tommy Robinson’ as a ‘patriot’. Was Bowles’ half-day social media training course and 13-day suspension from the Conservative party an adequate response? Andrew Bowles really should have known better than to re-tweet something as toxic as any communication from Tommy Robinson. A short media course is nowhere near enough to explain the consequences of supporting such views. The suspension was limited to enable him to stand again in the local election so not an adequate punishment.
Are you happy with policing in the town? If not, how would you improve it and deal with crime and antisocial behaviour? No. The police numbers and funding have been cut over the last few years as a result of Tory austerity. At night, police rosters are understaffed. The Faversham police station is rarely open and police are very infrequently seen in the town. There are problems with drugs networks, graffiti, theft and vandalism. There is a need for more visible policing in the town. In addition, there is a need for better youth facilities to serve local people and residents of new developments. Police should also work with local people in community schemes to help to reduce neighbourhood issues.
As a current councillor, what have you done to address air pollution problems in Faversham? Or, as a candidate, how should air quality problems be solved? Labour is supporting the 20’s plenty campaign for a 20mph zone to cover most of the town inside Love Lane, the Western Link and London Road. Better signage before entry to roads not suitable for HGVs should be provided to discourage lorries from using town roads except for access to the brewery and supermarkets. A weight restriction on other roads should be enforced. All the already approved and other new developments should be linked to the town by walking and cycle routes and better signage with destinations and times should be provided on walking and cycle routes to encourage use.