Canterbury Labour Campaigners Simon Warley and Mike Bland attended Canterbury City Council’s Planning Committee meeting last night when the complacent Tory majority on the committee voted through approval of the hybrid outline planning and detailed first phase application for the massive Mountfield development in South Canterbury. Simon and Mike agreed the impressively united ranks of Canterbury Residents Associations from all over the city, together with individual objectors, presented the committee with clear, detailed, and convincing reasons why this application should be rejected or at least deferred while further work was undertaken.
Instead, and against the opposition of Labour and Lib Dem members and one honorouble Conservative, the Tory majority voted the whole application through with only a few conditions. Simon Warley says “This decision is not only a betrayal of all the residents of South Canterbury it has dire consequences for all Canterbury residents and people living in the wider district”.
Simon and Mike agree wholly with the residents’ associations and other objectors that this decision will lead to massively increased levels of traffic congestion and wholly unacceptable levels of pollution with health threatening air particles caused by stationary traffic.
The Tories took this decision without even waiting for a Kent County Council report on the possibilities of improvement to the ring road system, and knowing that there was no funding available from this Tory government and County Council for a completely necessary southern relief road if the problems occasioned by this development are to be avoided. Furthermore, they proceeded to make this decision not having heard whether there were precedents of decisions to reject planning applications on the grounds of unacceptable pollution and congestion risk being upheld.
Mike Bland says “North Canterbury will be badly affected by this decision too, any gridlock in Canterbury’s road system at any point causes a nightmare for all and this will very badly affect people living in Northgate, St Stephen’s, St Duntan’s and London Road areas”. He argued that myopic piecemeal planning which does not take into account the impacts of other planning decisions, for example, the proposed Kingsmead, Hersden and even Herne Bay developments leads to making a nightmare out of existing problems.
But, Mike Bland argues, the outrageousness of this decision lies not only in failing to prevent further pollution and congestion, but also in the fact it will not help many ordinary local people with their housing needs. Labour Leader Cllr Alan Baldock objected during the debate that this application “doesn’t help people struggling to buy or rent a home at a reasonable price”, and he continued there was a clear need to stipulate social housing is required.
What was the Tory response to this? The cynical complacency of the Tories was perfectly exposed when Planning Committee Chair, Jennifer Samper replied saying “I think the land will be too expensive for social housing providers”.
If that’s their attitude, then we simply do not believe the local Tories will ever deliver on affordable and social housing for local people.
Mike pointed out the Tories on the Planning Committee were not just cynical and complacent, they were incompetent too. The Swalecliffe Tory (that’s right he does not live near the centre of impending gridlock and pollution!) who originally moved the application be agreed at the beginning of the debate, by the end wanted to asked for an alteration, not understanding what a hybrid application was.
Mike concludes, “If local people want to see housing built their kids can afford to buy, rent and turn into their homes, and if Canterbury voters want to have a competent council standing up for their rights and fighting for their interests, then they will have to vote this lot out, and vote in Councillors who will do the job”.
Simon and Mike are now on to the job of campaigning for a more effective and responsive Kent County Council who as the Highways Authority have a crucial role in mitigating against the potential hazards this decision throws up. And Canterbury & Whitstable Labour Party will continue its campaign to provide council and social housing local people can afford to rent and ensure there are homes local people can afford to buy.