Published: 13:30, 31 October 2017
The Medway towns will be unable to cope with thousands of new homes the government has indicated it expects to be built, say the area’s MPs.
They have delivered a blunt warning to housing minister Sajid David the revised targets could be ruinous and will be “quite impossible” to meet.
The three Medway Conservative MPs - Tracey Crouch, Kelly Tolhurst and Rehman Chishti - have jointly signed a letter to the minister to register concerns about the increased target which would see the number of houses built each year rise from 1,281 to 1,665 up to 2035.
And another Kent MP has waded into the row. Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson has also written to complain, telling Mr Javid that Kent “has taken more than its fair share of new homes over the last couple of decades, putting pressure on infrastructure and services.”
The government says more homes are needed because of the chronic shortage of affordable homes.
But the three Medway MPs say they “surprised and disappointed” at the government’s announcement and write: “The figure of 1,281 dwellings was a real challenge that we saw as unrealistic but 1,665 is quite simply impossible.”
The letter goes on to list a series of problems the hike would lead to, including the “dire consequences” of gridlock on the towns’ roads, even more over-crowded trains and pressure on health services and schools.
“Medway lacks the appropriate infrastructure to support an additional population of more than 100,000...our hospital has only recently come out of special measures but its capacity is at a maximum.”
At the same time, GPs were struggling with “longer waiting lists...and doctor shortages” while parents were being forced to look further afield for school places.
The MPs also flag up the prospect of already over-crowded trains becoming even busier, saying “there is sadly very little extra that can be done to provide the services needed for thousands of additional commuters.”
On roads, the letter states some are already gridlocked for most of the day and warns of dire consequences of “tens of thousands of extra vehicles based out of the Medway towns.”
The MPs call on the minister to review urgently the way the government has calculated what is needed “in a fair and equitable way.”
They conclude if the government presses ahead with its plans, the future prospects for the towns will be put at risk.
“Sudden and unrealistic demands could so easily derail our community’s chances of success and possibly have ruinous ramifications for the long term.”
Meanwhile, Medway Conservative councillors have waded in, describing the target as an “unrealistic and totally unacceptable increase.”
Council leader Alan Jarrett said: ‘Medway, like most of the south east, is already straining at the seams to accommodate the originally proposed level of growth, and therefore any increase to this figure will absolutely not be tolerated by Medway Conservatives.”
A revised formula the government plans to use will force councils to give the green light to building programmes if average house prices are greater than four times income.
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