MBC v KCC| News High Court case ‘is strong’

MAIDSTONE Borough Council is confident it can win its tax payer-funded High Court action againstKentCountyCouncil, ac- cording to papers seen by DownsMail. The hearing date has been set

forMarch 21, and Liberal Democ- rat-led MBC has been advised by its legal counsel it has a “strong case”. MBC’s Lib Dem leader Martin

Cox and council chief executive Alison Broomclaimthey are seek- ing “clarity” on the use of cash contributions fromhousing devel- opers (Section 106money). KCC wanted to use £200,000

from three developments on the A274 to fund studies into a Leeds- Langley relief road. MBC ear- marked thatmoney for changes to roads. In an internal memo, Patricia

Narebor, head of legal partnership at MBC, tells senior figures in the authority: “Maidstone has been advised by leading counsel that the council has a strong case in many respects and the case is being progressed accordingly.” It added: “A draft proposal to

settle the claim was reached with representatives ofKCCprior to the (2018) oral hearing; however,KCC declined to finalise the settlement,

but opted for the proceedings to continue.” We understand that Tory-run

KCCoffered to return the £200,000 and fund the relief road surveys it- self. A statement from Maidstone BoroughCouncil said: “Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), can an- nounce that it has been informed today (23 January, 2019), that the date for the High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division Court hearing of the Judicial Reviewbe- tween the authority and Kent County Council (KCC), is to be held on Thursday, 21March 2019.

The JudicialReviewwas instigated byMBCand brought againstKCC in May 2018, after all attempts to settle amatter over the use of spe- cific S106 money obtained as part of the statutory planning process proved unsuccessful.” Leader of Maidstone Borough

Council, Cllr Martin Cox, said: “We hope that this matter can be resolved before the forthcoming hearing inMarch. Throughout this processwe have remained open to all discussions and negotiations withKCC, andwill continue to do so for the benefit of all residents

MBC chief Alison Broom, above, and left, the High Court in London

across the borough.” Conservative and Labour group

leaders have jointly urged MBC management and political leader- ship to “put a hold” on any further action and resolve the dispute. KCC leader Paul Carter said: “It

shouldn’t be happening, that’s all I’msaying.” Despite repeated requests for an

update on how much the tax- payer has paid (or is likely to pay) for the High Court action, MBC has refused to comment.

See letters pages, 46&47 Former leader dumps the Tories for indies

AFORMERConservative borough council leader has resigned the party whip to become an inde- pendent. Chris Garland, who represents

Shepwaynorth,was incharge from 2008 until 2014 when the Tories held a workingmajority at the au- thority. We understand he does not see

eye to eye with current group leader, JohnPerry, andmany of the members overMaidstone Borough Council’s decision to take Kent County Council to the High Court over the spendingofdeveloper con- tributions (or S106 cash). Cllr Perry paid awarmtribute to

his former colleague, (pictured on left). Cllr Perry said: “I have huge re-

spect for Chris but he has decided to join the independents. He does not likemystanceonthe judicial re- view in that I want it put on hold and for the leaderships of both au- thorities to speak to each other. “IoweChris agreatdeal as itwas hewho persuadedme to become a

borough councillor a

M B C few

y e a r s backandI shan’t for- get him for that. He is a man who c o m - m a n d s immense respect at the town hall.” But no matter who wins the ar-

gument at theHigh Court, the tax- payer picks up the tab, he said. Cllr Perry added: “We have got a

pretty solid group at the moment. There are somewhomay have had difficult dealings with KCC in the past and that has shaped their thinking. “But I have come pretty fresh

from the outside with virtually no baggage and I have taken the view that I have taken.”

c h a l - l enged K C C o v e r £200,000 in S106 cont r i - butions f r o m A 2 7 4 housing develop- m e n t s w h i c h K C C

wanted to spend on surveys for a relief road. MBC is adamant the money goes towards accommodat- ing road amendments. MBC leaderMartin Cox and his

chief executiveAlison Broomclaim they have taken the action to pro- vide “clarity” on the issue of S106 money disposal. TheLiberalDemocrat-ledcouncil

is now wedded to the concept of “modal shift” to mitigate against the tens of thousands of extra cars

expected on the roads because of MBC’s 17,600 newhome allocation intheLocalPlan.This is likelyto in- crease to 25,000 houses when the plan is reviewed. MBC’s management hopes that

modal shiftwillpersuade localmo- torists to walk, ride bikes and use buses instead. Cllr Cox (pictured on right) ad-

mittedtoDownsMail last year that hewas not “100%sure” thatmodal shiftwillwork. At a public meeting, Cllr Perry

oncedescribed“modal shift” as the “two most dreaded words in the English language”. CllrGarlandwas approachedfor

a comment.He did not respond. But in a news report, he was

quoted as saying: “Unfotunately, I have some fundamentaldifferences with the group’s policies and it just wasn’t right forme togoondefying the partywhip.” According to the piece, he feels

that going to the High Court will achieve clarity and it is the right thing to do.

Maidston East March 2019 19

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