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A message from your County Councillor - December 2017

Many of you will know the Christmas break started a week early for me this year as I went into hospital on the 14th December for knee replacement surgery.

Despite increasing difficulty in walking the first half of December was as busy as usual. My diary included both Cabinet and Full Council meetings at Swale, Parish Council meetings at both Tunstall and Teynham and a meeting with Kent County Council Officers and Bredgar Parish Councillors to discuss reducing speed limits within the village of Bredgar. I also attended a presentation on the proposed Solar Park at Nagden and Cleve Marshes held in Graveney Village Hall. Following that presentation Helen Whately MP and I hosted a drop-in session with residents at the Free Wheel Public House to listen to their concerns on the Solar Park proposals and indeed on any other matters. This proved very popular and we had a chance to discuss these issues face to face with many residents.

I also chaired meetings concerning the Faversham Hop Festival and Sittingbourne Town Centre Regeneration. The day before going into Hospital I travelled to London for a meeting of the District Councils Network National Executive getting back to Sittingbourne just in time for Full Council.

Since coming out of Hospital, whilst not driving or attending meetings I have dealt with numerous local issues for both Parish Councils and individual residents by means of email and phone calls to Officers.

It has also given me time to reflect back on 2017 and forward to 2018. The last year has seen the vote in favour of “Brexit”, a resounding Conservative victory in the Kent County Council Elections and the unexpected General Election with its far from clear result leaving a Conservative Government without a clear majority. 2018 should be election free, fingers crossed, unless of course you are a resident of Maidstone Borough Council reading this which still elects its Borough Council by thirds.

Work will hopefully progress on seeing acceptable terms agreed to exit the European Union. If not achieved I believe we should just leave, no deal being better than accepting a poor deal. Locally the regeneration of Sittingbourne Town Centre will continue to move forward. I personally cannot wait to start attending the new Multi-Screen Cinema which should soon start to rise before our very eyes.

Just to prove a local politician’s life is not an easy one I shall be grappling with two major local issues. I always describe myself as one who was an Environmentalist before I ever became a Party Politician. Green Energy to me should always be preferential to relying on Carbon Fuels or Nuclear. However, the scale of the development proposed at Cleve and Nagden Marshes, referred to above, in the village in which I grew up is stunning. Not surprisingly those who will live adjacent to the proposed Solar Park are prominent amongst those urging me to oppose but they are joined by many others who value the unique landscape. This decision will be made at Government level but I will seek to ensure all opinions are fully heard.

Since 1990 I have campaigned to secure another link between the A2 and M2 East of Sittingbourne and West of Faversham, initially to relieve congestion in Ospringe, Teynham, Lynsted, Bapchild etc. This has become ever more critical as we more fully understand the life-threatening effects of air pollution often associated with motor vehicles. As readers will know a developer has put forward a proposal which will provide such a link roughly between Bapchild on the A2 and adjacent to Kent Science Park on the M2. The downside of these proposals is the figure of 11,000 houses to be constructed to fund the infrastructure, not just the road but also new Secondary and Primary Schools, etc. However, I believe we are already being asked to build too many houses. With the Government insisting on a review of our recently approved Local Plan by 2022, including the suggestion that the revised method of assessing housing need would result in a 36% increase in the number of houses to be built annually, all your local representatives will have to wrestle with the equation of either just saying no to Central Government and accepting the fact that they have the ability to take over our planning function and take these decisions centrally or to accept the extra housing and seek to ensure it is built in the place that will give local residents most advantage. Although we do not yet have a planning application we do have an Environmental Impact search. This means that the debate has already restarted. Not surprisingly I am being lobbied by residents of Rodmersham, Bredgar etc. opposed to the scheme in its entirety. I am also being contacted by residents of those villages along the A2 East of Sittingbourne and by residents of Sittingbourne itself who are broadly in favour of the scheme. As I say, a local Politicians life is never easy.

Andrew Bowles

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