Published: 00:00, 28 March 2003
KENT county council leaders have questioned Government plans for a massive expansion in house building in the South East when recently-built homes in the north are being torn down.
Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, KCC’s Conservative leader, spoke out after visiting estates in Newcastle, where hundreds of recently renovated properties designed for social housing are now being pulled down.
He said it made no sense to earmark parts of Kent for massive development when the population of the north was declining and he questioned whether the Government was doing enough to push the economic regeneration of parts of the north.
“It is quite remarkable that we are now knocking down homes, built with City Regeneration grants. We have to do more to stimulate the economy of the north and one of the things that it needs there is an international airport,” he said.
It was wrong to do nothing to stem the migration of skilled people away from cities in the north to the south east, he added.
However, at a conference to launch a new county council environment strategy this week (March 25), a former Conservative Environment Secretary insisted there was very little to be done to halt the growing demand for homes in Kent and the south east.
John Gummer, who served in the last Conservative cabinet in the 1990s, said: “This [the south east] is the powerhouse of the UK. This is where the wealth is created and we must make it possible for people to live here in a sustainable way,” he told the conference.
The idea that you could transplant that kind of economic prosperity from one region to another was mistaken, he said later.
“You will kid people if you say you can do something which will make a huge difference. You cannot transplant energy from one place to another. The idea you can pick it up and give it to Newcastle just does not happen,” he said.
Praising the Deputy Prime Minister for being “very tough” about the number of homes which would have to go on so-called “brown land” sites, he added it was vital homes were built in way which did not “desecrate” the countryside.