Published: 12:23, 05 June 2020
| Updated: 14:37, 05 June 2020
Councillors are being accused of pressing ahead with a multi-million pound scheme to regenerate the Hoo Peninsula - which will include 12,000 new homes and a railway station - without listening to the raft of concerns from villagers.
However, the leader of Medway Council says there has been "clear and continued engagement with the local community" over the project, and it isn't over yet.
The authority has secured a £170 million grant from the government to develop the infrastructure and build houses on the green field site in the area by March 2024.
But some fear the plans will have drastic adverse effects on the environment and wildlife.
Cllr Ron Sands (Ind), who represents the peninsula, is also incensed with a document published by the council which "bears no resemblance to Hoo" and, he says, is more like a "developer's sales pitch".
In a scathing attack, he accuses the council of "concreting over our unique peninsula at all costs".
He added: "Most of the photographs are not of Hoo, but rather they depict the 'fairytale Medway' they are trying to sell to the people of Hoo."
His feelings are echoed by George Crozer, chairman of High Halstow Parish Council.
He said: "Medway Council is encouraging developers to build large-scale housing development on the Hoo Peninsula, nationally famous for its nightingales and of international importance for its biodiversity. Its marshes are one of the last unspoiled landscapes in south east England."
His comments come after a meeting with council officers at the end of last month.
Mr Crozer said: "Instead of providing serious answers, glossy coloured brochures and a three-page flyer have been posted or emailed to residents of the Hoo Peninsula by Medway Council.
"In reality, these new documents provide little or no details about the environmental effects of the additional traffic and new development supported by the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
“We are not opposed to new housing in Medway. But we do believe that 12,000 new homes - all on green field sites on the Hoo Peninsula - will cause massive harm to the sensitive rural environment, the living conditions of the local community and the important wildlife on the peninsula.”
In an 11-page document to the council, Kent County Council has raised concerns over "adverse" impacts on Medway roads and stressed that "sensitive" and historic assets, such as the forts around Grain should be protected.
Councillor Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council and Medway Conservative Group, said: “I am both confused and extremely disappointed by Cllr Sands comments.
"At all stages, Medway Council has made sure that there has been clear and continued engagement with the local community, as we seek to explore the incredible opportunity that the £170m HIF funded infrastructure presents for sustainable growth on the Hoo Peninsula.
"Our Planning for Growth on the Hoo Peninsula document was consulted on from March 6 to May 11, where we invited comments from a wide range of stakeholders, including local members, parish councils and local residents.
"It is common practice in such design and planning documents to use library images of other developments to illustrate potential plans, however, it clearly would be too much to expect Cllr Sands to understand this or have the same level of vision and ambition for Medway as this Conservative administration.
"Medway Council has warmly welcomed all comments received in response to the consultation, and we are now considering these remarks as they relate to our preparing more detailed planning documents to support the local plan.
"With regards to engagement with the parish council, we also took the decision to extend the deadline for Hoo Parish Council to give them ample opportunity to respond to the previously mentioned consultation.
"More recently, meetings have been held virtually with representatives of both Hoo Parish Council and the High Halstow Neighbourhood Plan group.
"Before the consultation began, and prior to any Covid-19 restrictions on movement and meetings, council officers offered to meet with ward members in the Peninsula and Strood Rural wards to brief them on the proposals, and take questions.
"I am informed that Cllr Sands did not take up this opportunity, totally failing to engage or inform himself.
"Moving ahead, it should go without saying that any and all development associated with the HIF infrastructure will be subject to the due planning process, where there will be specific consultation as part of the development management process.
"There will also be further opportunities to make comments as part of the consultation on the draft local plan later this year.”