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Medway Council cabinet member Cllr Rupert Turpin sacked over Local Plan opposition


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Medway Council's cabinet member for business management has been sacked following a feud over the authority's new draft Local Plan.

Conservative councillor Rupert Turpin has been replaced on the council's decision making body after voicing concerns over the reported earmarking of the Chatham Docks for redevelopment.

Cllr Rupert Turpin says he was "thrown off" the cabinet due to his reservations over the draft Local Plan
Cllr Rupert Turpin says he was "thrown off" the cabinet due to his reservations over the draft Local Plan

Campaigners fear the Docks inclusion in the draft Local Plan could lead to the port's possible closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs in Medway.

KentOnline understands plans will be unveiled for 3,600 apartments as part of a mixed use development with the council looking to meet government housing targets.

But Cllr Turpin, ward councillor for Rochester South and Horsted, says he cannot support the plan and has been "thrown off" the cabinet due to his reservations.

The former portfolio holder said: "The local plan process hasn't been easy. It's led to some conflicts and I find myself on one side of the argument and Cllr Jarrett [leader of the council] on the other side.

"I will be voting against the local plan, to go out to consultation on Thursday, so I think that is effectively why I have been thrown off the cabinet. "

Chatham Docks employs about 800 people and businesses based there have a turnover of about £170m. Picture: Association of Chatham Docks Commerical Operators
Chatham Docks employs about 800 people and businesses based there have a turnover of about £170m. Picture: Association of Chatham Docks Commerical Operators

Cllr Turpin took aim at the "vast bulk of housing going into the Hoo Peninsula" whilst other areas such as the Capstone Valley remained free from development, he claimed.

"I have been trying behind the scenes to get the designation of the Chatham Docks to stay as employment land and I have not been able to get what I wanted," he added.

"Again if you look at when the local plan was released, and I only saw it last Thursday, I haven't seen it before then, again in the supporting documentation on employment land analysis there is no suggestion we should be closing the Chatham Docks or moving the Docks to residential land."

The site, which formed part of the former naval dockyard, remains a commercial dock and is currently protected from redevelopment under the existing Medway Local Plan.

But the new draft Local Plan report says: “The redevelopment of the remainder of Chatham Docks would provide an opportunity for a continuous riverside path and facilitate the opening up of the Chatham Waters link.

“The council supports the potential for new services on the river to complement the regeneration and tourist attractions along the waterfront, therefore the retention of and access to wharves and public piers will be promoted, subject to the need to meet the requirements of conserving the important environmental features of the designated river and estuarine habitats.”

A cabinet reshuffle is understood to have taken place at Medway Council. Picture: Andy Payton.
A cabinet reshuffle is understood to have taken place at Medway Council. Picture: Andy Payton.

Landowners Peel L&P has already said it wishes to close down the port when leases for the businesses based there expire in 2025.

Cllr Turpin says the docks are an important part of Medway's history and for him their loss is a red line.

"I don't believe in shutting down businesses that are viable," he said. "Reluctantly one has to accept that some businesses lose viability and over time it is time to close them down and move on.

"I wouldn't mind with the Chatham Docks if they could move somewhere else and have the same facilities but it's very difficult to replicate those facilities.

"They would have to go far away and it would mean those jobs would effectively be lost for Medway."

It remains unclear whether other Conservative colleagues will voice their opposition to the plans on Thursday.

Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett says cabinet members will be replaced if they refuse to adhere to policy best serving the interests of those electing them.
Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett says cabinet members will be replaced if they refuse to adhere to policy best serving the interests of those electing them.

Cllr Turpin added: "I have laid my cards on the table and, you know, other people will be making their minds up.

"Obviously I'm disappointed to be off the cabinet. I've enjoyed my time working on the cabinet and it is a shame every now and then a point of personal principle arises and every politician has that point where they have to take a stand."

Commenting on the cabinet reshuffle, leader of Medway Council, Alan Jarrett, said: "The reason for the reshuffle is as leader I have a clear and widely-known expectation that all cabinet members adhere to policy agreed by cabinet and indeed the Conservative Group.

"We have a strict understanding of corporate responsibility and collective decision making in cabinet by which we are all bound.

"If any member of my cabinet chooses to refuse to adhere to that policy they risk being replaced."

He added: "A strong collective voice at cabinet, representing the majority of the Conservative Group, is essential if we are to best serve the majority views of those who elect us and for whom we serve."

Read more: All the latest news from Medway

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