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downsmail.co.uk PM must listen to his voters


THE disproportionate pressure being inicted on the South East to solve a perceived housing shortage was amply illustrated in a recent report by the design house, Stantec.


Whilst some districts and boroughs are expected to swallow 200% plus increases (on top of what has already been foisted on them) under sweeping new planning reforms, there seems to be little acknowledgement from the housing secretary Robert Jenrick about how these communities are meant to cope.


The GP surgeries cannot take many more new patients, schools are already under pressure and the roads are starting to give up. Yet up north, Salford, Newcastle- upon-Tyne, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Leeds, according to Stantec, are set to have reductions in housing numbers of up to 60%. Correct, readers, 60%.


This is jaw-dropping.


That is why Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant and nine other brave MPs have written to Mr Jenrick expressing these points. It is a bold move. (It does, however, beg another question: if 10 of Kent’s 17 MPs signed the letter, what about the other seven?)


The MPs wrote: “By way of


comparison, housing numbers required by the Northern Powerhouse regions, such as Greater Manchester, are scheduled to decrease under the proposed reforms. “Under the Government’s new


Opposing garden village


CONCERNS about a huge new development at Lenham Heath have not gone away.


On Friday, September 11, I took part in a virtual meeting with Lenham Parish Council to discuss the next steps in the campaign to save Lenham Heath. Earlier this year, Maidstone Borough Council’s policy and resources committee gave its backing to the proposal for a council-led “garden village” at Lenham Heath. However, the development still needs to get approval from the council’s planning committee, which is due to meet later this month to consider the plans. This is part of the council’s work to develop a new Local Plan for Maidstone.


The current plans would see 4,000 new homes built near Lenham Heath by 2042. I’ve repeatedly told councillors that this development is far too big and in completely the wrong place. It would put huge pressure on local roads and services, and risks becoming a London


SimonSays SIMON FINLAY Editor simon.nlay@downsmail.co.uk Twitter @Simonnlay6500


proposals, new homes will need to be delivered in areas which have already shouldered a substantial amount of housing growth.


“They are areas where road infrastructure is creaking, particularly in our towns, where school places are under pressure and where access to GP appointments is proving increasingly difficult.


“Local plans ... will be left in tatters and planners will have to re-start the process, wasting so much time and tax- payers’ money already spent. “There is understandable and widespread concern amongst our constituents about the impact upon our green spaces, including areas of outstanding natural beauty, the green belt and farmland.


“The proposals also appear inherently unreasonable, particularly to those local authorities in Kent who have already successfully worked with the Government to deliver the homes we need.”


There was more besides and it


deserves a thundering round of applause. The letter did go not into specics of each constituency, but the consequences for all are very much the same. If the


commuter development – which is not what local residents need or want. My survey on the development found that 96% of respondents thought Lenham Heath was the wrong place to build a garden village. I’ll continue to do all I can to oppose this development.


Helen Whately, MP for Faversham & Mid Kent


Tories have lost our votes


I AM horried by the way so much housing is destroying Maidstone – a borough my wife and I chose for our home 20 years ago.


And this is after about 8,000 Local Plan houses have been built, rising, I thought, to a ghastly 27,000. Now you report the Government is likely to demand 34,000, about 1,600 more every year. The Government seems set on concreting over Kent – the garden of England – and we no longer wish to drive around the borough because it leaves us so angry.


There is no proper supporting infrastructure and local public services


Government is so keen on “levelling up” in the north, there will need to be a major housebuilding programme to home the people happy to settle up there. But does anyone seriously believe that will happen?


It has to be said loud and clear to Mr Jenrick. Kent is doing its best to help, but there is a limit and that limit is already in view.


There is one senior mover and shaker in this parish who is contemplating (even given the inherent risks) a call that Maidstone and the others should take on the Government; to say, sorry, no extra houses, we’re already full up now.


It could be perceived as a dangerous act of deance and could ultimately stiffen the resolve of Government to hasten greater changes to local government, such as the suggested amalgamation of local councils into a smaller number of much larger unitary authorities. Maidstone is likely to fare badly from that geographical carve-up. This crisis is now too serious to allow tribal politicking get in the way. There has to be unity of purpose.


There is an indecent haste about the


Government’s plans – change now, think later, seemingly. Close detail and law of consequences are largely ignored in the illusory big picture. Perhaps faced with an electoral backlash in the heartlands where much of the Prime Minister’s 80 seat majority lives and works, he might just listen. We, the voters, ultimately hold the best cards.


are already under intense pressure. Sadly, we are off to live in the type of area we thought we found in Maidstone. And our days of voting for Conservatives are over, unless they are more understanding of areas they ruin. John Crossley, Maidstone


Taxi rank move so wrong


HOW could Kent Highways unilaterally decide to suddenly close Maidstone’s main taxi rank in King Street for a cycle path without any proper consultation, especially with the local taxi drivers and their association?


It took ages for Maidstone Borough Council and the cabbies to reach agreement on the current arrangements because there were so many challenges. At a stroke, Kent Highways thought they could change everything, totally without the drivers’ knowledge. They were put in their place in no uncertain terms by the Kings of King Street. Is Covid-19 really behind this


Government-nanced work? I see it driven by “modal shift” fanatics


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