Published: 11:30, 20 July 2017
| Updated: 11:44, 20 July 2017
Council representatives are due to be sent on a taxpayer funded trip to a conference in the French Riviera to wave the flag for Otterpool Park.
But Shepway council’s chief executive, Alistair Stewart has revealed he has had “no volunteers” from officers to go to the MIPIM conference in Cannes next year.
The four-day gathering is the world’s largest event attended by major investors in real estate projects and leaders from “all sectors of the international property industry”.
Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee, cabinet member for communities and who lives in Sellindge, told last night’s cabinet meeting – when the decision was approved – it was “really, really important” for the council to look internationally.
Council leader Cllr David Monk (Con), who will attend alongside one officer, said the networking and conferences at the event next March is “the place to go” to encourage businesses to invest.
But an investigation by the Independent at last year’s conference in London found the conference was “a non-stop party” according to one attendee while another said he was “on a yacht with some investors” within hours of arriving.
A council spokesman said no costs have been worked out yet adding that attending was "a unique opportunity" that would "bring major benefits for minimal financial outlay".
SDC has been working with the Department for International Trade since early 2017 about ways to “promote major infrastructure and development projects to an international audience”.
Documents passed by the council’s cabinet last night, said attending MIPIM next year could be used to the authority’s “best advantage to promote Otterpool Park”.
Officers will approve funding for the trip through a contingency fund used by the corporate management team which is “already in the budget framework” meaning it does not require cabinet members to “approve this spend”.
Mr Stewart said: “I’ve not found any volunteers [from officers] or members to go. It’s being arranged by Locate in Kent. It’s about what is appropriate for this scheme.”
Shepway District Council’s (SDC) plans to develop a garden town near Westenhanger and Sellindge including 12,000 homes, a population of around 29,000 people and seven schools and more doctors surgeries as well thousands of jobs.
Cllr Hollingsbee said: “I’ve attended a number of meetings with consultants and Locate in Kent.
“It’s really important if we want to attract large scale employment and encourage young people we need to go further afield.
“We need to take every opportunity we can to bring in employment on this scale.
“It’s really, really important we do go international.”
A council spokesman said attending the conference will allow SDC to "promote Otterpool Park to significant and potential investors in the residential and commercial property markets".
They added: "We are acutely aware of ensuring that we secure value for money from this event. Costs will be kept to a minimum as we will be joining with Locate in Kent as it promotes the county to international investor markets."
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More by this authorMatt Leclere