Published: 11:00, 28 March 2014
Conservative leaders have defended their decision to go to Disney World in Florida following a group meeting last night.
Some Tory councillors were understood to be unhappy after it was revealed their group leader Cllr John Cubitt and Cllr Robin Theobald, the shadow planning boss, would be joining Labour-led Gravesham council bosses and officers on the tour.
We revealed exclusively earlier this week that Gravesham council leader John Burden would be taking along eight other members of the council on the transatlantic trip.
Their expedition, which will cost about £15,500, will see them visit Disney World, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando.
It hopes to recoup the taxpayers' money from the developer London Resort Company Holdings during the planning process.
Behind the scenes, some suggested that Cllr Cubitt and Theobald may have been instructed not to attend next month.
However, following last night's Conservative Group meeting, it was agreed they should still go.
A statement from Cllr Cubitt and Cllr Theobald said: "The proposed Paramount Resort complex is mostly in Dartford borough but it will have a big impact on Gravesham and we need to make that impact as good as it can be.
"That means being well informed so our comments have strength.
"Employment and the local economy need to be maximised and we must spot potential pitfalls and avoid them.
"We will be looking at security not just during the building but also in managing the vast volume of visitors.
"Such a huge development is bound to generate large volumes of traffic and there are questions as to how this is to be accommodated, especially in view of the Eastern Quarry development and an already overloaded A2."
They will be flying to Orlando on Saturday, April 19 and coming back on April 23.
Cllr Cubitt continued: "We will have access to the back-of-house of these international attractions in Florida to see how they manage.
"A robust understanding of how nearby communities have benefited while others have not will enable us to have constructive input to the debate.
"We also need to understand the catchment area for employees and the nature of jobs created so we can ensure our constituents obtain the right skills.
"There are always those who will accuse members of ‘going on a jolly’ but we don’t regard giving up our Easter Holiday for two long flights and an intensive series of meetings combined with a whistle stop tour of theme parks in America, as ‘a jolly’.
"Theme park noise, crowds and contrived excitement don’t particularly interest us. We do these things in the service of the council and our constituents not for personal gain."
Fellow Conservative leader Jeremy Kite, in charge of neighbouring Dartford council, previously told the Messenger: “I must say, I think it’s an unusual thing for them to be doing. I can’t see the benefit with it at this time.
“I haven’t been invited and I wouldn’t go if we had been."
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