Home   Ashford   News   Article

Phil Sims resigns as Kennington councillor, sparking Ashford Borough Council by-election

A borough councillor who pledged to fight any major development in his ward has been accused of leaving constituents “high and dry” after resigning.

Tory Phil Sims, 67, had represented Kennington since 2011 but stood down at the beginning of the month, sparking a by-election.

The father-of-three, who lives in Ball Lane, says resigning was the “only honourable thing to do” after controversial plans emerged for 750 homes at the so-called Large Burton development off Willesborough Road.

Former councillor Phil Sims
Former councillor Phil Sims

But residents have criticised the move, saying Kennington needs someone fighting its corner amid plans for thousands of homes in the area.

Mark Street, who also lives in Ball Lane, said: “We now have literally no one to represent us in Kennington.

“The Kennington Community Forum is in a transitional phase and now we have no elected representative.

Fields off Willesborough Road are earmarked for development
Fields off Willesborough Road are earmarked for development

“It leaves Kennington completely high and dry at a time when some of the most controversial planning proposals in the last 20 years are coming forward.

“As residents, we feel totally let down by his resignation.”

Mr Sims - who is a former head of governors at Downs View Infant School - says he will not stand as an independent candidate in the upcoming by-election, which is yet to be arranged.

The retired British Gas analytical chemist said in an email to residents: “The platform I stood for at the last election was to fight any major development in the ward. In this I have failed, despite my efforts.

“I therefore consider the only honourable thing to do is to resign, force a by-election - which you and others can fight as a No Large Burton estate, etc, and hopefully win.”

The 'Large Burton' scheme planned for Kennington
The 'Large Burton' scheme planned for Kennington

A planning application is yet to be submitted for the Large Burton estate, which could see about 750 homes, shops, a new school and sports pitches built opposite Little Burton.

Development company Quinn Estates held two public consultations earlier this year at the nearby Conningbrook Hotel, which Mr Sims attended.

The scheme has been included in Ashford Borough Council’s Local Plan.

Mr Sims added: “I wish I had resigned a month or two earlier to give more time for people to oppose it. I couldn’t go any further with it - it is down to the people to have another go against it.

“It is Grade 1 agricultural land which the government’s planning policy says should never be developed on.”

A council spokesman says Kennington is not being picked on in the authority’s Local Plan, which is a planning blueprint up to 2030.

'I wish I had resigned a month or two earlier to give more time for people to oppose it...' - Phil Sims

He said: “We have acknowledged the concerns and objections that have been put forward against the proposed allocation in the Local Plan.

"These have all been considered by the independent inspectors appointed to examine the plan and debated during the Local Plan hearing session on the site, and so any objections have had a rigorous consideration.

“The inspectors have not indicated to the council that they consider the site to be unacceptable for development.

“There is a national housing shortage and therefore every local authority, including Ashford, needs to plays its part in delivering housing.

“Other locations around Ashford and the rest of the borough are also being asked to accommodate new development too, so it is not just Kennington which is seeing new housing coming forward.”

In 2015, Mr Sims stormed out of a council meeting after a decision on new community councils did not go as he wanted. From spring next year, two areas - Kennington and South Willesborough/Newtown - will be served by the bodies, which will be similar to parish councils.

But when the decision to create them was made in December 2015, Mr Sims threw his ABC lanyard on a desk before walking out. He said at the time: “Do the residents in Kennington and South Willesborough want to pay for another level of government which is basically powerless?”

The first elections to the new community councils will be held in May 2019.

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More