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Dartford council writes explosive letter to Gravesham over green belt development consultation

By Ed McConnell

Dartford council has delivered a further blow to Gravesham’s efforts to plug its house-building gap by penning a strongly-worded response to a consultation on its Local Plan.

The prospect of developing the highly-valued green belt proved deeply unpopular when it first surfaced towards the end of last year.

Residents don’t appear to have warmed to the idea despite council leader Cllr David Turner (Con) explaining his authority didn’t have much choice over the matter.

.Jeremy Kite
.Jeremy Kite

So if the upper echelons of the Civic Centre were hoping councils in a similar position might provide some relief they would have been deflated when Dartford’s letter arrived last week.

In the response, Cllr Turner’s opposite number Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) wrote that Gravesham’s record of house building — 165 last year against Dartford’s 1,162 — had inevitably put the green belt at risk.

He said: “I regret that Dartford council is unable to endorse the potential harm to the green belt (or the wider impact on north Kent) that seem to lie within Gravesham council's current growth options.

“Dartford is concerned that, instead of reinforcing protection of green fields in the green belt, the consultation features several unnecessary and premature release options.”

Of the six options consulted on, only one required no release of green belt land and Cllr Kite said that option was presented negatively.

He added: “It is a legal requirement for all local plans to be prepared in cooperation with other planning authorities. There is a concern the potential for any meaningful discussion is undermined by a continue lack of clarity on Gravesham’s position.”

Cllr Kite says Gravesham council’s consultation fails to explore the development potential of the town centre and therefore focuses instead on green belt land.

Speaking this week, Cllr Kite said Dartford had been criticised for the scale of development in the town centre but that this was necessary to protect the green belt, he added it was therefore in a good position to help Gravesham with its plan.

Gravesham council leader David Turner
Gravesham council leader David Turner

Cllr Turner said he was drafting a full response to the letter, adding: “As a council we will take on board Dartford’s views, however, I do not agree with a number of the points.”

Last year housing targets were increased in most areas of the country and Gravesham’s rose from 4,600 to 6,170 by 2028.

He added Gravesham had not seen any real green belt release, while provision of land for projects like Bluewater and Ebbsfleet Garden City had put Dartford in a better position.

Treasurer of Gravesham Rural Residents Group, James Ferrin, said: “Dartford’s view is a breath of fresh air and we sincerely hope Gravesham take note. We want the council to focus on the urban area which is so in need of support and investment.”

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