Following a recent visit by Lord Heseltine to Swale, the council leader Andrew Bowles has written to the Thames Estuary Commission outlining a number of opportunities across the borough including the creation of new “community” villages to support the development of the Kent Science Park.
Interestingly the implementation of the Thames Estuary Commission which covers the whole of North Kent replaces the current Thames Gateway initiative, will no doubt present some problems for the Borough Council as it has spent many months arguing in favour of a two tier planning approach for Swale which provides Faversham with a degree of protection from development on the basis that it is not part of the Thames Gateway.
However, whilst the Council has been quick to include support for infrastructure investment in Faversham via the upgrade of M2 Junction 7, it does so the basis of national and regional importance rather than any specific economic or housing development in Faversham itself.
In addition to the aforementioned housing development in southern Sittingbourne, and M2 Junction7 upgrade the Council is seeking by 2050 to progress a new motorway junction (M2J5a) and Southern Relief Road to enable the growth of the Kent Science Park both of which were rejected from inclusion in the current Local Plan on grounds of delivery.
There are also plans to embrace a garden city approach for Sheerness and Western Sheppey, exploit opportunities for RoRo facilities at the Port of Sheerness, improve rail connectivity between the Port of Sheerness and the rest of the country and support a third and fourth Thames Crossing.
Roger Truelove, Leader of Labour Group on Swale Borough Council told us “It’s a total surprise to me, typical of the way the council runs things, I only get consulted on things that don’t matter and I’m pretty annoyed to say the least.”
Independent Councillor Monique Bonney said “I'm appalled that a cunning political plan has been hatched with absolutely no regard for facts and evidence to create a new SSR and new villages. The planning inspector has already put paid to these daft ideas. Yet again they have been resurrected in another guise.”
“The Council has steadfastly argued the need for 2 planning areas; Faversham that is protected and Sittingbourne and Sheppey that have been stuffed with the majority of future housing development. Yet having argued this need the council has now undone that work in a single stroke.”
“The ruling elite should be concentrating their visionary efforts on those things that can realistically be delivered within the next plan period not creating pie in the sky schemes for 2050! Yet again officers are wasting their time on unsubstantiated political schemes. The local residents should be outraged at this frivolous waste of council resources.”
UKIP Councillor, Mike Baldock said “These future plans haven't been discussed with Councillors, and have been hidden away from residents. This shows the secretive and undemocratic way in which the Tory elite are working on Swale to force housing estates all over Southern Sittingbourne and the rural villages. When are the obedient foot soldiers on the Tory backbenches ever going to show some backbone and stand up to their leadership?”
Council spokesman said:
“The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission was set up to develop an ambitious vision for the region up until 2050. As part of this, the commission called for ideas from interested parties about the opportunities available, and details of the barriers faced in achieving these."
“The submission is a high level vision that, whilst not council policy, reflects ideas and ambitions that meet the commission’s requirements."
“Our submission contains broad outline ideas for how the borough could potentially benefit from unlocking opportunities for growth over the next three decades, creating world class jobs and beautiful communities for the growing local population."
“Whilst being ambitious for the area, the submission rightly puts growth as being dependent upon significant investment in local infrastructure that not only meets current capacity issues, but enables growth to benefit the area for future generations.”