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Medway Tory councillor Jane Chitty tells of hurt over de-selection in Strood North

Prominent councillor Jane Chitty's near 40 years' service on Medway Council came to an abrupt end with four words: "You have been unsuccessful."

After an interview to see if she was suitable to stand in next year's local elections, her de-selection came hours later in a brief email.

Cllr Jane Chitty
Cllr Jane Chitty

The Conservative cabinet holder for economic growth likened the meeting with a panel of Rochester and Strood Conservative Association as "a bit of an inquisition".

She said: "I knew when I sat down and they asked me to speak for five minutes that it was not going to be a comfortable process."

But she confesses as the portfolio holder overseeing the draft Local Plan she has been on a rocky journey for the last couple of years.

In particular, issues such as the delay in formulating the vital blueprint and the future development of Chatham Docks for housing have proven challenging.

These are subjects she has openly clashed with Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst over.

Map showing where Chatham Docks is
Map showing where Chatham Docks is

Because of these differences, the 79-year-old widow was half expecting to be dumped from standing again in Strood North.

But nevertheless when the message popped up on her tablet while at home on Saturday evening, she admitted: "It was very hurtful."

And she asked herself: "What have I done wrong?"

She was first elected onto the former Rochester-upon-Medway City Council in 1983, losing her seat just once in 1995, only to return following the formation of the unitary Medway Council in 1998.

Although she will not be standing in her old ward, she has decided not to offer her services in any other ward or become an independent councillor.

Kelly Tolhurst MP
Kelly Tolhurst MP

She retains her cabinet position and is committed to see through the Local Plan which determines the future of the Towns until 2037.

She was told that one of the reasons she had been dumped was because she did not co-operate enough with Miss Tolhurst.

She said: "Things got quite nasty. I didn't answer emails because I did not want to be agreeing with everything being said."

The fallout accelerated because Cllr Chitty is for the development of housing at Chatham Docks which is owned by Peel L&P.

Ms Tolhurst, however, wants the commercial site kept in operation, potentially saving hundreds of jobs.

Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett
Medway Council leader Alan Jarrett

The MP, who was actually on the panel at Wainscott Memorial Hall, said: "I did not personally decide to deselect her. The association did, of which I am very small part.

"Yes, we do have differences on Chatham Docks and the Local Plan. But as the constituency MP, I expect all councillors to engage with me."

Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett also attended the interview in his role as local party leader to ask the candidates questions.

He said: "Jane has been with the council a long time.

"Medway has been on a spectacular journey and Jane has played a great part in that."

Cllr Jarrett added the Local Plan process had proved "difficult".

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