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Tory quits party over council's housing targets

By Alan Smith
Happier days! Paul Butcher chats to Helen Grant MP at an election count
Happier days! Paul Butcher chats to Helen Grant MP at an election count

The issue of Maidstone council’s 19,600 homes housing target is rupturing the borough’s Conservative Party.

Life-long Tory Paul Butcher, who has 10 times stood as Conservative candidate at borough and county council elections, has quit the party over the housing figures.

Mr Butcher, from Staplehurst, is particularly angry over the effect on rural areas.

He said: “The Tory party is simply not listening to the people over this.

“They have designated Staplehurst to take 905 homes, that’s increasing the size of the village by 35%, but there is no provision for the additional facilities that would be needed.

He said: “What’s more they say 40% of those homes should be social housing. That’s crazy, we do not have the infrastructure to back that up. “The bus service is inadequate, KCC has withdrawn its youth service. The sewerage system, the doctors, the schools - they simply won’t be able to cope.”

Businessman Mr Butcher, who own Butchers removals, said it was ridiculous that the borough council was proposing 40% affordable housing in the villages, but only 30% in the urban areas, where services were more easily accessed.

Mr Butcher, who has been a Staplehurst parish councillor for 10 years and is chairman of the planning committee, said he is considering standing as an independent at the forthcoming borough council election in May.

The sitting Conservative councillor for Staplehurst, Eric Hotson, is stepping down, and parish council chairman John Perry is standing in his place. But Mr Butcher said: “The Conservatives think it is a done deal. It’s not. People are really angry at about this.

“The party has to realise that the power rests with the people.”

Mr Butcher praised the stance being taken by the local Liberal Democrats on housing and said he would be prepared to sign the nomination papers for their prospective Staplehurst candidate Paulina Watson.

Mr Butcher said: “I agree with a lot of the Liberal Democrat views on housing.”

Paul Butcher - has stood as a Conservative candidate 10 times
Paul Butcher - has stood as a Conservative candidate 10 times

The news delighted the Liberal Democrat prospective Parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, Jasper Gerard. Mr Gerard said: “Paul understands the planning issues in Staplehurst and he realises that it is Lib Dems who are leading the fight against these housing figures.

“He agrees with us that we need a controlled and planned approach to house-building, not a developer free-for-all concreting-over so many green spaces.”

Mr Butcher said he had warned his Tory colleagues of his feelings in advance, but they “shrugged it off”.

He said: “I see things black and white. I have to stand up for my beliefs and for what the village thinks. I’m not someone who can say to the party leader, I will just toe the party line.”

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