LOCAL PLAN - BUILD, BUILD, BUILD. YOUR RIGHT TO BE CONSULTED

By Brian Pain


Swale Green Party released this press release relating to the extraordinary scenes at Swale Borough Council full council meeting this Wednesday the 24th where many cabinet members voted against an amendment put forward by Tim Valentine to ensure meaningful consultation on the Local Plan by sending a letter to all households in Swale to draw their attention to the Local Plan consultation and tell them how they can respond.


All Swale residents will shortly be receiving a letter from Swale Council asking them to provide their views following an extension to the Local Plan Review deadline. The decision to write to all residents was proposed in a Green Party amendment at a meeting of full council on Wednesday the 24th and passed despite extraordinary and undemocratic arguments from cabinet members who voted against the amendment.


Cllr Tim Valentine said: “I'm delighted the amendment passed. We need to make every effort we can to conduct a meaningful consultation on the local plan review under the COVID restrictions we find ourselves living under.


“We cannot place documents in libraries, hold town hall meetings or deliver leaflets by hand, and not everybody has access to the internet. The local Plan Review includes major decisions that affect the places people live.


“I hope we can now have a thorough consultation, in which everybody's voice will be heard. I’d like to thank all councillors who supported the amendment. They have done a great service to the people of Swale.”


Voting details


Cllr Tim Valentine (Green Party) proposed the amendment, seconded by Cllr Ben A. Martin (Independent), that the council should write, as soon as possible, to all households in Swale to draw their attention to the consultation and tell them how they can respond. The letter will list the location and number of homes of all new allocations under the local plan review.


All cabinet members voted against the amendment, except Cllr Mike Baldock (Swale Independent Alliance) and Cllr Ben J Martin (Liberal Democrat) who abstained. They objected on the grounds of cost, it not being necessary and the climate impact of posting a letter during a climate emergency.


The Cabinet Member for Planning pointed out that the Tories didn’t write to residents when they were in power. The Leader of the Council, Cllr Roger Truelove, accused Cllr Valentine of grandstanding. It seems that when the Greens joined a progressive alliance with a priority to listen to residents, the Greens were the only group who really meant it.


The amendment was supported by Cllr Tim Valentine and Cllr Alastair Gould (Green Party), Cllr Ben A Martin, Cllr Denise Knights, Cllr Lee McCall (Independent), Cllr Carole Jackson (Labour), and all Conservative members.


The report for this item stated: “the council has always been clear that it wants as many residents and other interested parties as possible to be able to engage with the consultation and make their views known.” Therefore, the amendment might have been expected to pass unanimously.


The audio recording of the meeting will be available here. The item was the final agenda item (no. 17).



HELEN WHATELY RESPONDS TO THE LOCAL PLAN


In September last year, ten conservative MPs representing constituencies in Kent wrote an open letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, criticising the proposed new housing quotas being imposed on the county by central government. The letter is reproduced to the left.


It is apparent that our local MP, Helen Whately, was absent from the signatories despite representing an area which was about to be massively affected by the proposed housing quotas. One imagines that self interest in preserving her position as a junior minister and generally craven supporter of all government actions meant that she felt unable to lift her head above the parapet and object along with her fellow Conservative MPs.


Recently, however, she has been very publicly denouncing Swale’s proposal to site in Faversham 5,729 of the total of 24,124 houses foisted on Swale by her own Government. Presenting herself as a passionate defender of the Town. See her press release (below).

Where all these new houses were meant to go she failed to say, presumably anywhere other than Faversham.


It is deeply depressing that she seeks to make political capital out of this impending planning disaster by picking a fight with Swale Borough Council rather than blaming the real culprit, her own Government. Faversham deserves better than this self-serving MP, whose performance nationally as Minister of State for Social Care has been such a disaster.


The Faversham Eye requested an interview with Helen Whately but, unfortunately, she was too busy to give us more than the press release.