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A message from your County Councillor - March 2018

Just to show you cannot always count on old weather folklore, March both came in and left like a lion not a Lamb with little improvement between times.

March this year has been unusually busy both for committee and other meetings. These have included a Full Council meeting at Kent County Council and both Full Council and Cabinet meetings at Swale Borough Council. I attended the Swale Youth Forum and an Urban Crime Training Seminar unfortunately having to leave both before they finished due to other appointments.

There have been a large number of ‘high level’ out of Borough meetings. The District Councils Network Executive Committee, South East England Councils Executive both held in London, also a meeting of all Kent Council Leaders and one of the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership. The latter contains not just all Kent Council Leaders but an equal number (plus1) of representatives from the Business and Further Education sectors.

A meeting which ought to be of major interest to all was the meeting of the newly renamed Local Plan Panel. Whilst we await final confirmation from Government as to whether they will apply the new housing needs figures (for Swale a whopping 36% increase) from the date this review should be published in July 2022 we have to plan ahead. It takes about four years to produce a plan allowing for the various statutory consultation periods. Assuming Government intends to impose the higher figures produced by the new methodology Swale Borough Council appears to me to have three options:

1. Refuse to comply. The danger of this option is having local planning powers removed as is currently happening to Thanet. Numbers and distribution of new housing etc. determined by those who are not answerable to Swale residents. 2. Status quo. Divide the higher number across all Communities and Electoral Wards within Swale potentially upsetting everybody and pleasing nobody. 3. Go with one or two major sites, the so called “Garden Village or Garden Town” option. Two locations have already been publicly mentioned, South East of Sittingbourne providing a new link between the A2 and M2 and potentially a new Senior School and three new Primary Schools. The second option already in the Public domain is the proposal on the outskirts of Faversham which would provide the funding to upgrade Brenley Corner, Junction 7 on the M2. The former is promoted by the owners of Kent Science Park and other local landowners with Quinn Estates as the lead developer. The latter is promoted the Duchy of Cornwall who own all the land currently included.

Other sites may come forward as a result of the forthcoming call for sites.

The Consultation will open in late April and will last for twelve weeks. All options have a mixture of both dangers and advantages for Swale, its residents and its economy. Please fully engage and help to guide your future Councillors in coming to what is bound to be a difficult and contentious decision.

Local meetings attended during March included the Swale Branch of the Kent Association of Parish Councils and meetings of Selling, Newnham, Bapchild and Dunkirk Parish Council’s.

This Month I have said goodbye to two special friends, Michael Woods and Richard Barnicott. I knew Michael best as a long serving Member and an excellent Chairman of Hernhill Parish Council. He was also a stalwart of the Hernhill Horticultural Society and a long serving Committee Member, a former Vice-Chairman of the Dawes Community Association and a Governor of Abbey School. A lifelong resident of Staple Street I shall personally miss both his company and excellent guidance.

Ricky Barnicott was a close and valued friend. Ricky was unique in serving fifty years as a Borough Councillor, firstly on the old Faversham Borough Council and then following Local Government reorganisation as a member of Swale Borough Council. For most of that time representing Watling Ward in Faversham and then in latter years the more rural Teynham and Lynsted Ward. During his career Ricky was Mayor of Faversham, Chairman of Swale Borough Council and then following the granting of a Royal Warrant the first Mayor of Swale. On leaving the Borough Council Ricky was made an Alderman of the Borough and was very recently honoured by being made the first Freeman of the Town of Faversham. As the long term Chairman of Swale Borough Council’s Planning Committee he was one who could truly be said to have left a lasting mark on the Borough. His funeral will be held on Friday 13 th April at Barham Crematorium at 10.40am.

Andrew Bowles Email: Mobile: 07778629879

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