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Medway Council leader hits back at Michael Gove’s threat to intervene on planning policies

Medway Council’s ruling group has hit back at the government after being branded one of the worst authorities in the country for planning its blueprint for the future.

Cabinet heavyweight Michael Gove has threatened to intervene if the authority does not submit firm house-building proposals within 12 weeks.

Medway Council'S Labour group leader, Cllr Vince Maple
Medway Council'S Labour group leader, Cllr Vince Maple

Council leader Vince Maple has now responded to the explosive and sudden statement directed to Medway and six other local authorities which the Levelling up Secretary described as “under-performing”.

Cllr Maple, whose Labour administration came into power in May this year after 20 years of Tory control, blamed government departments for playing their part in the authority’s delay in formulating a Local Plan.

In particular, he highlighted the massive blow of Mr Gove’s Department of Levelling Up and Housing Communities “abrupt withdrawal” of £ 170 million Housing Infrastructure Funding (HIF).

The much-needed cash boost was vital to provide a transport structure on the Hoo Peninsula where 12,000 homes were controversially earmarked.

Cllr Maple also pointed the finger at National Highways which put the brakes on development in Medway because a gateway junction on the M2 junction 1 at Strood was not fit for the purpose.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove

In a hard-hitting missive to the Levelling up Secretary, he writes: “One government department calls for growth, another arm of government stymies it, leaving us in an invidious position.”

Progress was also hindered after the delays by Natural England which designated a potential development site at Lodge Hill, Chattenden as aSite of Special Scientific Interest.

Cllr Maple also pointed out the well-documented in-fighting to major schemes within the previous Conservative party .

He wrote: “The government, in all its forms, must take responsibility here.

“For you to suggest that the issues reside solely with the council is not just unfair, it is factually incorrect.”

Cllr Maple has invited Mr Gove to visit Medway within the 12-week timeframe to discuss his issues face-to-face.

On Tuesday, in a speech outlining long-term housing plans, Mr Gove said “Where there has been and is consistent underperformance, I will act.”

He has threatened to intervene with the possibility of developers being allowed to apply directly to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to build.

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