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Medway councillors say developers will be to blame if Medway fails to meet government housing targets

By Chris Hunter

Members of Medway Council’s cabinet pointed the finger firmly at house builders on Tuesday as they agreed steps to tackle the housing crisis.

These included lobbying the government to make sure the council was not penalised in the event of potential failures to deliver housing, and to call for measures to “encourage developers and land owners to develop sites which have the benefit of planning permission.”

Councillors Adrian Gulvin and Jane Chitty called for government support over house-building

Councillors Adrian Gulvin and Jane Chitty called for government support over house-building

It is estimated 30,000 new homes will be needed in the Towns by 2035, and with Medway already fifth on the national property hotspots list – due to the high demand for homes – house-builders are being urged to hurry up.

Medway cabinet also agreed to ask the government to introduce a tax on developed – or “land banked” – sites to encourage developers and land-owners.

Cllr Adrian Gulvin, portfolio holder for resources, said: “Time and again you read in the media that the housing shortage is the fault of local authorities. Developers have to step up to the plate.”

Cllr Adrian Gulvin

Cllr Adrian Gulvin

But he said it was also the council’s job to take a firm stance in the face of anti-development protesters.

“We’ve tried to make sure residents are disadvantaged as little as possible,” he added “We can’t be afraid of telling people they can’t be opposed to everything.

“That’s not to say that totally building over the South East is sustainable in the long term. It’s not.”

Cllr Jane Chitty, portfolio holder for planning, agreed the government should take action against developers that were ‘land-banking’, but said the lack of skilled workers was holding up house building.

Cllr Jane Chitty

Cllr Jane Chitty

Words of caution came from Cllr Andrew Mackness, portfolio holder for corporate services, who said the suggestion of a national directive on land-banking was “naive”; and from council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett, who said brownfield sites should be prioritised.

“Developers find it easy to develop green field sites,” he said. “The challenge is to make use of council land.”

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