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Gravesham councillors clash as Local Plan slammed as “shambolic” and “defeatist”

Gravesham leader John Burden has defended the council's housing strategy after opponents slammed the draft Local Plan as “shambolic” and “defeatist”.

Labour-run Gravesham council is currently running a public consultation on the Emerging Local Plan Core Strategy, which outlines the need to build an additional 10,480 new homes in the borough between now and 2036.

Gravesham Conservatives say the council's local plan threatens green belt land.
Gravesham Conservatives say the council's local plan threatens green belt land.

Gravesham Conservatives have challenged the plan, stating it would see whole swathes of the green belt in Higham, Meopham, Shorne, Istead Rise, Sole Street and the surrounding areas developed, which in turn would place unnecessary strain on our already under-resourced schools, hospitals and GP practices.

Cllr Bob Lane, shadow cabinet member for strategic environment, said: “Put simply, the Labour-controlled council is paving the way for a 24% increase on the current number of dwellings across the whole of Gravesham. Between now and 2036, the population of our borough is set to increase by 2,600 from 106,900 to 109,500 and yet the Labour council wants to see 10,480 new homes developed in our borough over the same period.”

Cllr Jordan Meade, leader of opposition, said: “Instead of showing leadership and challenging the government’s use of the 2014 population projections, the defeatist Labour administration have been all too happy to sit back and facilitate the building of 10,480 new homes across Gravesham. This could mean up to 25,000 more people cramming their way into our borough, with no thought given to how these numbers might impact our schools, hospitals and lack of infrastructure locally."

Conservative councillors say they have written an open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, which calls on the government to "step in and recalculate their numbers before irreversible damage is done to Gravesham."

Gravesham Council leader Cllr John Burden
Gravesham Council leader Cllr John Burden

But Gravesham leader Cllr John Burden pointed out the consultation was in response to the demands of a Conservative government.

"It's ridiculous," he said. "To be frank, this whole consultation came with a requirement from the government that we had to engage in a green belt review.

"The Conservatives had four years to do that – they had the opportunity then to challenge the government on numbers and they had the opportunity to consult. All they did was argue with each other.

"If they want to write to the government, I would welcome them as a Conservative group challenging a Conservative government to do that."
Cllr Burden added that the government had actually reduced the numbers of new houses stipulated for the borough – something which had been challenged by MPs in other parts and councillors in other areas of Kent.

"We're not challenging that because we want to accept the lower numbers," he added. "If there's any shambolic or defeatist attitude it's from the Gravesham Conservatives, who take more pleasure from fighting amongst themselves than dealing with the issues.

"They need to sort themselves out. We're delivering a local plan for local people that delivers housing in the areas where it's needed, along with employment and infrastructure."

He said the Conservatives themselves had proposed an out-of-town shopping centre in the green belt, adding: "How they can oppose this and propose an international shopping centre I don't understand. I know it's nearly the silly season at Christmas but they seem to have started a bit early."

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