Published: 12:00, 16 December 2016
People are protesting a multimillion pound council house development on the last bit of green space on their estate - even though work has started.
Dartford council is pressing ahead with its plan for the homes in Coleridge Road, Temple Hill, despite strong opposition from residents.
Planning permission for dozens of one and two-bedroom flats was granted in January last year and Jenner Contractors is already on the site.
Residents are not only disappointed to have lost the green space, with hoardings around the development having blocked light from getting to their homes and the work has also made parking difficult in nearby Shaftesbury Lane.
Mum of four Lanette Safo-Wiltshire, 42, who lives in Shaftesbury Lane, said: “Residents are in absolute uproar about it. It’s so dark around here.
“We are all at the end of our tether with it. Dartford council have a lot of land that they could have built this social housing on, which is needed, but they have placed them all on our green because they don’t care.
“They think because it’s Temple Hill that it doesn’t matter. It’s really upsetting for people round here. Temple Hill is becoming a slum. It’s so deprived and there’s a lot of low morale here.
“Most of us are good, honest, hard-working people who just want to take pride and pleasure in where we live. Jeremy Kite [council leader] doesn’t live on Temple Hill. If he did he wouldn’t want it here either.”
Cllr Kite (Con) insists he is proud of the development and believes building social housing is a key part of his remit.
Speaking about the flats at a council cabinet meeting last Thursday, he said: “What an amazing piece of architecture. There are going to be some extremely happy people moving into these flats. I think they’re going to be absolutely beautiful.
“These are 100% council houses. They are exactly what people say councils should be delivering and isn’t it bizarre that it’s a Tory council that’s delivering the first ones in Dartford for 30 or 40 years.
“Building council houses is the future. Conservative, Labour, Independents, it doesn’t matter to me — build council houses.”
He added that he understood residents’ concerns, but insisted that building council houses was vital to help young people in the borough get a foot on the housing ladder.
Last week’s Dartford Messenger revealed the demand for housing in Dartford, with the borough having the highest number of homeless people relative to population in Kent. There are 337 living in temporary accommodation and another 10 sleeping rough.
Claire Barlow, who also lives in Shaftesbury Lane, understands the need for more social housing but says the council is turning Temple Hill into a concrete jungle.
The 51-year-old who has lived on the estate for most of her life has started a Facebook campaign that has attracted 800 members.
She said: “The green space on this estate was designated not to be built on when the estate was built.
“The green space on this estate was designated not to be built on when the estate was built" Claire Barlow
“It wasn’t because they ran out of money, it was specifically designed so that the people here had some green space. The woodland in Coleridge Road has been there since before 1860 and there are foxes, bats, and stag beetles.
“The council is refusing to acknowledge that the wildlife even exists.
“This area is already highly polluted due to constant problems at the Dartford Crossing and these new builds will introduce 65 or so new parking spaces.
“This road is not very wide, is already parked on, and people use the pavement too.”
The Messenger first reported on residents’ bid to block the development last summer, when one man admitted he probably not have moved into Temple Hill if he had known about it.
David May, 60, of Coleridge Road, moved into a flat just opposite the green and only found about the plans shortly afterwards.
“When I came down to look at the flat before I bought it I thought it was beautiful,” he explained.
“All this greenery and the wildlife is great for the people that live here and I had never heard anything about the building work.”
Labour targets minimal disruption
Littlebrook ward councillor Daisy Page (Lab) said she was working to ensure that the development disrupted existing residents as little as possible.
The Labour deputy leader is supportive of the building of new council houses, but is concerned that they are being built without the required infrastructure in place.
She said: “We are experiencing a housing crisis across the south east and we desperately need more council and truly affordable homes.
“My criticism of the development on Temple Hill that we need to see fairer building and development across the borough.
"A large amount of the building is taking place in the north east of the borough and I worry about our already struggling infrastructure for existing and future residents. We should not build without the required infrastructure in place.”
Cllr Page is working with colleague Cllr Tom Maddison (Lab) to address some of the concerns raised by locals since work on the new flats began.
She continued: “The hoarding for the Coleridge Road building has just been erected and it is feet away from the front doors and homes of existing residents, some who have lived there for decades.
“Issues such as lighting and safety in the alleyways is something Cllr Tom Maddison and I have been working on with the council and local residents.
“We will continue this work to ensure that the lives of the existing residents are disrupted as little as possible.”