Published: 05:00, 17 October 2021
A senior Conservative politician has called for massive housebuilding in the north and Midlands to ease "serious growing pressure" to deliver new homes in the south of England.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council (ABC), made the comments as he announced the creation of a 'land mapping commission' to identify suitable locations for housing developments within the Ashford borough.
The commission will be made up of politicians and representatives of other organisations with an interest in planning and the environment.
It will be expected to deliver a draft report to ABC by the end of 2022.
Cllr Clarkson said: "The government has continued to increase the demands for higher and higher housing delivery growth, to the extent of even reducing the very necessary checks and balances that existed within the planning system.
"We have for many decades based our housing and economic growth on an Ashford plan-led approach which, combined with other districts in Kent, has contributed significantly to the scale of housing delivery in the UK.
"Unfortunately government has concentrated on the lower tier authorities to provide the vast bulk of the housing delivery without themselves embracing a more strategic approach.
'A once-in-a-generation contribution to shape the future of our beautiful borough...'
"I think the creation of two or three garden cities with several thousand homes in each, accompanied by the necessary infrastructure and employment opportunities, perhaps in the Midlands and the north of England, would contribute greatly to the nation's housing need and ease the quite serious growing pressure on many districts in the south."
The stated aim of the commission is to protect the countryside and avoid rural and urban sprawl across the 224 sq m of Ashford borough.
It will also assist the council in identifying areas where wetland parks can be created, providing areas to mitigate the ongoing adverse effects of nitrates and phosphates entering water courses.
Cllr Clarkson said: "This will assist the council to live up to our declared ambition of being a green pioneer and an example to government and others by showing just what can be achieved, by adopting a collegiate, and forward thinking approach.
"This is an excellent opportunity for the commission to make a once-in-a-generation contribution to shape the future of our beautiful borough.
"Its work will not only inform future strategic planning but will also become an exemplar to government on how an inclusive and collaborative approach can lead to better plan making and more sustainable communities."
Cllr Paul Clokie, a Conservative party member from Ashford Borough Council, will be commission chairman, supported by vice chairman Cllr Noel Ovenden, leader of the Ashford Independent Party, the largest opposition party on the council.