Published: 14:50, 13 July 2017
A controversial plan that will pave the way for 16,000 new homes is poised to be agreed tonight amid concerns it is being "rushed through".
The city council’s Local Plan contains proposals for major housing developments in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable in the next 14 years – including the 4,000-home Mountfield Park development to the south of the city.
The council meets tonight (Thursday) to vote on formally adopting the plan, which has gone through numerous consultation and amendment stages.
It says its process has been rigorous and involved the public in what amounts to “the most debated and analysed document we’ve ever produced”.
Wincheap Lib Dem councillor Nick Eden-Green, who has been critical of the plan from the outset, complains that the final document is being put to the council too hastily.
He said: “I’m just amazed that such an important, lengthy and much-modified document is being rushed through full council.
“The Local Plan runs to 388 pages and has 186 main modifications running to 158 pages, plus another 46 pages of additional modifications which have largely bypassed the Local Plan steering group. Thus, they have not been really scrutinised at all.”
Solicitor Jeremy Baker, an expert on transport and planning issues, is also concerned that members of the public will not be allowed to address the council at tonight’s meeting.
Although Mr Baker will be speaking as he hands a petition to the council, he said: “The public cannot speak at the full council meeting unless they first submit a written petition with at least 15 signatures.
“Therefore the unusual procedure that is being adopted will effectively exclude many members of the public from having their points heard and thus being involved before this critically important document is adopted as council policy.”
As well as the Mountfield Park development, the Local Plan envisages large housing estates built at Hersden and Herne Bay.
Another 750 homes are planned for a site off the A28 to be known as Thanington Park and last week developer Quinn Estates raised the prospect of building 2,000 homes close to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital.
The city council is rejecting the claim the Local Plan is being “rushed through”.
“In fact the opposite is the case, as the plan is the culmination of many years of hard work involving numerous public consultations, committee meetings and public meetings, as well as a very rigorous public inquiry,” spokesman Rob Davies said.
“It is the most debated and analysed document we’ve ever produced and even the most ardent council critic could not accuse us of not involving the public over the last 11 years.
“Thursday night’s decision is a binary one. The inspector’s report sets out what needs to be changed and that is not open for further discussion. Simply put, councillors are voting to either adopt the plan or not adopt it.
“Given all the participation and consultation that has gone before, and the nature of the decision to be taken, we have taken the view that this is a matter for full council.
“Our four group leaders were consulted on this approach and none of them disagreed.”
The Local Plan is set to be adopted at a time when communities secretary Sajid Javid insists that the high demand in areas of south-east England must bear the brunt of more homes being built.
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