Hello my name is Gareth and I grew up on the North Preston estate in town, I attended the Abbey School and have lived in Faversham all my life.
I’ve been married for 22 year’s with 3 wonderful children, 2 have grown up and left home. I’m disabled and a full time wheelchair user which gives me a different perspective to other candidates.
I’ve always tried to give back to my community and have run a film club and the PTFA while my youngest son, who is autistic, was at primary school and now I volunteer with Radio Faversham.
I believe that Faversham is a wonderful town but people who have extra needs including young families and those who live on the outskirts are often forgotten, I want to change that.
If an existing Councillor, what do you consider your best achievements in the last four years?
What are voters’ main priorities in your ward?
While for some parties the focus of Watling ward has always been the A2 at Ospringe and the pollution there, this is undeniably important I think that there is far more to Watling ward than one area. We have huge housing estates at either end of the ward that feel forgotten and have seen little investment from both the town council and Swale borough council in years. The Perry Court development has consistently changed from it’s initial planning arrangement and has become a source of concern for everyone in Watling ward. To the east of Watling we are facing the huge Love Lane developments and the possibility of the Duchy Garden village. People in Watling bear the brunt of developers without gaining infrastructure or any other benefits, looking at years of disruption and building debris blighting their lives.
Have current councillors have spent our money wisely since the last elections?
Personally, I think the money that was used for 12 Market place shows that the Town council while well intended could have put the money to better use, the public exhibition area downstairs seems to very niche in what is displayed and is rarely used. Hardly something for the entire population of town especially those who live on the satellite estates. I have rarely spoken to families who have visited a event in there, it seems to be the same group of people repeatedly.
There is still very little for the teenagers of the town, and what facilities they have are woefully out of date and dangerous. Likewise for the elderly and disabled in town, the installation of one bench doesn’t change the fact that cobbles make our entire market place hard work for those with mobility issues.
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?
I believe nothing should be done in secret, everything should have transparency and meetings should be advertised more and easier for people to access and attend. People should feel they can attend meetings. Minutes from meetings should be available at the Local Library for anyone to read not just in the town hall or on the website.
Is Faversham’s local government transparent enough? If not, how would you improve openness and accountability?
People need to feel that they have a right to go to Town Council meetings because before I got involved with local politics I didn’t know that anyone could attend, if that was the case how many other people feel that way? We need more open meetings, where people can challenge what has been discussed and decided, with meetings conducted in the Guildhall people automatically feel unimportant and overwhelmed. The question and answer session at the start of the meeting is far too short and is usually taken up by political campaigners who are gesturing rather than normal members of the public who simply want a question answered.
I would have more advertising about meetings , including in supermarkets and ask local schools to put it in news letters, including local shops especially in communities out of the town center. I would like to start Town Hall style sessions, dedicated to questions and answers from the public, ensuring accountability from Councillors. A Saturday surgery is fine but sometimes people feel intimidated by coming by themselves and allowing people to come in groups empowers them to speak.
How would you develop opportunities for the town to draw on its heritage?
I would continue to support the campaign to restore the creek to it’s full working capacity and former glory, the community traditional boat building project has just launched the Bridget, this should be praised and built on, with funding and focus.
In this time of the artisan business small brewery’s should be encouraged to flourish, we are the town of hops after all and we have the festival to prove it, why not encourage the investment of businesses who will ultimately provide employment to an area that is so well known for this elixir ?
Working with the Faversham Society who have provided such invaluable influence and insight at protecting our heritage we should be able to keep Faversham’s unique flavour while moving towards the future.
How should our creek be regenerated to boost local tourism whilst preserving its character and maritime heritage?
I’m very proud to be representing a Party in this election who has supported and will continue to support the Swing the Bridge Campaign, the renewal of a movable bridge on the creek is vital and Faversham Town Council really should have done more to ensure KCC and Peel Ports didn’t drop the ball on this. The people of Faversham raised the money and kept up our end of the bargain, we have been let down.
We should be encouraging boats to travel on the creek we have a town quay and we could have one in the basin, these should be in full use all year round but they aren’t. By boats using the creek the need for dredging will reduce and we will once again have a thriving waterway. We already have wonderful facilities for people withing walking distance of the water, we need to signpost these and expect people to come.
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?
It can’t, at a recent Future Faversham Forum meeting there was a report regarding bus journeys within the town drawn from a public survey, I learned that we really need to address the lack of coverage in many areas and I hope that is something a Labour Town Council will do. Car sharing is not always the answer we need to think bigger, Faversham was not designed for this number of cars or Lorries.
We are lucky to have so many good schools in our town, but with the added population from the new builds it will be an impossible task to find places for all the children without having to increase class sizes beyond tolerable levels. That of course will damage childrens education and vital start in life, I notice that Early Years was not stated in this question and obviously that should be remembered as we only have 2 Sure Start Children Centres in town. Private providers play a vital part but with the Governments free childcare scheme many are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
Newton Place surgery is expanding and our Minor Injuries will soon become a UTC but this will not be enough to cover every person or family who will live in our area, it would be naive to think so, again you missed out something vital, dentists, currently too many people cannot access a NHS dentist rather going to the out of hours service because they simply have no option. This will get worse.
What is your view on the proposed solar power station threatening Graveney Marshes?
I’m totally against it and so is the Labour Party both and here and in Canterbury, that’s why we have registered with the Planning Inspectorate and will take part in any future public inquiry and we hope to be represented at every stage.
We objected on the grounds of traffic during construction and running the site, the impact on the wildlife and the damage it will do to area of natural beauty as a whole. Green energy should be encourage but must have been brown field sites that could have been chosen.
What role do you think party politics should play in Local Government?
Local politics and party politics isn’t a one size fits all tshirt. While some policies can be changed slightly and used others have no baring on local issues whatsoever. However it is important to remember that to some extent representatives of party’s are answerable to them.
Obviously I would work with others across party lines and already do in my volunteer roles, it is often the case that to get the best outcomes you need to disagree first. In most cases community over party is more important and is always more important than self.
Are you a Freemason? Should members of such organisations standing for public office be required to declare their membership?
No, I’m certainly not.
I think members of any organisation that could provide eventual social benefits should declare it, there is a long history of these societies having a sense of fraternity that supersedes all else, I think it would be detrimental to democracy to allow this to supplant our Council.
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?
If Swale Borough Council are to give Faversham Swimming Pools more money – which shouldn’t be forgotten is money raised from our council tax intitially so is our money. Then that can only be seen as an investment in our town, but there must be a real investment in our town for this contribution to be given.
Young people deserve to have subsidised swims, so do the elderly and the disabled, these vulnerable groups benefit from swimming as exercise. Social prescribing is a truly wonderful way of people having a better quality of life and we need to help our vulnerable groups to become more active to become more healthy and reduce their health issues.
Where do you stand on proposed cuts to Faversham Library’s opening hours?
Against it completely, our libraries should have longer opening hours not shorter. Elderly people use it as a safe warm place especially in winter, it provides free computer access, vital now for benefit claimants who have to navigate Universal Credit which is only available online.
I was proud to support the non political campaign set up by Julian Saunders and I supported petitions from around Kent to stop these cuts, austerity is a choice and we are all suffering from the choice made by the Conservative Government to cut the grants to Local Governments and bad financial decisions by Conservative run Kent and Swale councils.
What more should be done for young people in the town?
Unfortunately some of the young people of town have a bad reputation and that has tarred it for the rest. But that doesn’t mean we should forget about them there was a Councillor who said he was going to do a lot for them, not a lot seems to have happened,if that’s not true I apologise.
As a dad of 3 I can happily say my children benefited from the wonderful youth organisations in our town, however these are not for everyone nor should they be. Since the loss of the Youth Club in South Road the only truly universal youth environment has been provided by the WFCC who try their best but it’s not central and can’t cater for all.
I would work towards the Youth Cafe project I have heard so enthusiastically about from people who are looking for a location and support, similar to the Pulse cafe in Maidstone, a successful project that has transformed the young people there.
I’d try and get more local children involved with the NCS scheme using their ambassadors, this low cost highly effective programe has really worked nationally to give young people focus and skills they will need in adult life.
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?
Councillor Bowles should have never described anyone from the far right that way, neither should anyone else. It seems that he was only suspended for 13 days so he could still represent the Conservative Party in the Local elections. As for the half day social media training it is perfectly clear that was not enough as Cllr Bowles himself rather flippantly noted at a recent council meeting, when asked about it, he said (sic) I can’t remember what it entailed but I have the certificate here to prove I did it. This shows full well that it counted little more than a participation trophy,
Are you happy with policing in the town? If not, how would you improve it and deal with crime and antisocial behaviour?
Obviously Faversham doesn’t have enough police, when did you last see a policeman in your area? Unless you’re very lucky of course.
I live on a satellite estate and the only time we see a police car is when it has it’s blues and twos on. It would be great to be able to have a full time police station like we used to, I’m sure Kent police are as frustrated as we are with the current slash in numbers thanks to the Conservative government.
It’s very hard for me to say how I would fix it personally, I would need to talk to police about how we could effectively combat the rising crime.
Lets face it the main troubles are antisocial behaviour, drink and drugs. That is the main priority for most people, as we recently saw our amazing police recently seized cannabis with a street value of £600000 on the Front Brents, we must not turn a blind eye to the problems that are quite literally growing in our town.
Every problem has a solution, by finding the best way to ensure people and communities feel safe and trust that the police will respond we will find a way to tackle crime, together.
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?
There is no quick or easy fix for this, but there are some sensible steps we can all take. Encouraging walking by increasing crossings throughout town, not just in the center. Watling ward especially has horrendous crossings including the vastly outdated bridge over the A2 which doesn’t cater at all for young families or disabled people. We need joined up cycling lanes, not shared pathways which are not used well, properly planned cycle lanes that will be used and can be safe. As I said in a previous question the Faversham Future Forum report into bus use showed that there are huge gaps in coverage meaning that people just don’t use buses when they could and should, we could start a community bus service. The A2 pollution is highest not at working commuter times but at school run times, a bypass won’t help this, the schools are within the bypass route, we need to help the schools establish either walking buses or school buses. A cursory count of school run cars shows a startling amount of single children in these cars. car pools are the norm in other countries, why not here?
Finally the Faversham Traders Association could help, by giving special offers or discounts to those who use public transport on production of a ticket, this is used in other towns, people would feel an incentive to use it. Promoting local business and public transport at the same time. It may also be worth converting some more of the carpark spaces into disabled spaces only. Meaning that only those who genuinely need to park near to the town center will and improving the possibility of those who live only a short distance away of walking this would also reduce parking around the Guildhall, indeed there would barely be a need for it.