The borough will face more house building as the council aims to meet government targets
Two campaigners battling to prevent more houses being built on the Island have accused Swale council of dramatically under-estimating the number of homes which could be built on existing sites.
Civil engineer David Orpin and journalist David Jones say the council’s latest Bearing Fruits draft Local Plan is seriously flawed.
Swale council is carrying out public consultation on the proposals and Islanders have until Monday, September 30, to comment.
Mr Orpin and Mr Jones are particularly angry that a 25-hectare (61 acre) green field site to the west of Barton Hill Drive for a minimum of 500 houses has been introduced into the plan.
The Sheppey-based pair say: “This is bizarre and totally unnecessary, as the council states in the plan that ‘the improved outlook for delivery at Queenborough and Rushenden now means the previously proposed reserve housing site to the east of Scocles Road (a green field site) is no longer required.’”
They accused Swale council of using development at Barton Hill Drive as a “carrot” to have Lower Road upgraded.
The pair, both members of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) Swale committee, argue that measurements they took at Kingsborough Manor, Eastchurch, Thistle Hill and Plover Road, Minster, and Queenborough and Rushenden, demonstrate there is capacity for another 840 homes, 340 more than the proposed 500 Barton Hill Drive allocation.
Mr Orpin said: “At Queenborough and Rushenden, the council’s revised site yield has dropped dramatically from the 2,000 included in the existing Local Plan to 889, but even taking this drop into consideration there is no need, as we have demonstrated, for the destruction of any more green field sites on Sheppey.”
Mr Jones said: “We are deeply suspicious about the reasons for the introduction of the Barton Hill Drive site.
"The folly of allowing the Thistle Hill development to go ahead, without jobs or improved infrastructure, can be seen every evening in the mile-long queues from Thistle Hill to Cowstead Corner and beyond.
"The introduction of the Barton Hill Drive green field site is, of course, a good way of persuading developers to pay for the dualling of the road, at zero expense to the local authority, by dangling the Barton Hill Drive carrot.”
He added: “We don’t want houses from Cowstead Corner to Thistle Hill. A cornfield at the bottom of Barton Hill Drive is an awful lot more attractive.”
Mr Orpin said: “Without jobs, a community becomes just a dormitory. More houses will only make it worse.”
Mr Orpin and Mr Jones surveyed existing housing sites on Sheppey, finding:
- At Kingsborough Manor an area equivalent to 115 dwellings has yet to be built on.
- At Thistle Hill and Plover Road, where the council says there is room for another 630 dwellings, an area equivalent to 1,230 dwellings has yet to be built on.
- At Queenborough and Rushenden, the former Invicta Merchant Bar Rolling Mill in Rushenden has now been acquired for housing development, a brown field site which will yield 125 dwellings.
- None of the additional housing capacity which could be provided by these sites has been included in the plan, they say.
- To see the local plan or make comments, visit http://swale-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/
- There are also reference copies at Swale council offices and libraries.
- Email email@example.com or write to Spatial Planning Manager, Swale Borough Council, East Street, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME10 3HT. The deadline is 5pm on Monday, September 30.