It really shouldn’t be this hard, we are after all in the very final stages of a long drawn out consultation, so why is it that Swale Borough Council still are still not able or willing to answer some pretty fundamental questions about their own Local Plan.
This is the last of three consultations that have been spread over a period of three years on the future of Swale. The Council have presented before us a final document based on the outcome of years of feedback, evidence and research so surely it must be fairly watertight by now, otherwise the Council would be at risk of having the whole plan thrown out by the Government appointment inspector in due course.
I didn’t expect my questions to be all that taxing, I haven’t asked anything particularly odd; just a few observations that I would like to understand better prior to making my own comments.
As everything hinges on their transport strategy, I thought I’d start there with: -
"When the Northern Relief Road is completed you predict that the A2 to the east of Sittingbourne will become severely congested, but imply that congestion is also the mitigation measure, is that correct?"
"What alternative routes does the traffic model shows being used once the A2 becomes congested?"
"Are you able to clarify what the required major new development for the Southern Relief Road is and why it is required?"
Now I had asked similar questions last year only to be told that I would need to submit these as part of my response and then they would be dealt with. Unfortunately neither were they dealt with, but they remain unanswered to this day.
So what do they have to say now, well here is the response.
“There have been substantial changes to the Local Plan brought about by changes to government policy. This has led to the need to review our transport work. This is in the process of being set up with KCC Highway Authority colleagues and it will be for them to comment on the transport /highways aspects of the results and advise on any appropriate measures which may need to be included in the plan. We are not yet in a position to do this and therefore answer your question at this point in time.”
- Spatial Planning Manager.
So it would appear that the plan we are being consulted on isn’t that final after all, because KCC have not yet advised on matters transport related. This undermines several key claims made in the plan and essentially suggests that the Council would currently be unable to substantiate these claims.
Once again members of the public are being disenfranchised from the policy making process because the Council are consulting on a plan for which evidence doesn’t yet exist. They have effectively bet their shirt on the outcome of a traffic model that has not at this point even been commissioned.
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Its a work in progress, I might add more and change bits here and there, you don't have to agree, but please do tell Swale what you think either way.