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Medway Local Plan: Protesters voice opposition to proposed homes for Chatham Docks and Hoo Peninsula

Campaigners have staged a protest outside a chapel where Medway Council is due to host what was expected to be a crunch meeting.

Councillors were due to debate the local authority's draft Local Plan tonight before voting on whether to send it out for public consultation.

Protesters voice concerns over the future of Chatham Docks and new homes in the Peninsula

But bosses decided to shelve the matter after it emerged the leadership might lack the votes required to pass the plan to the next stage.

It comes after a rebellion in the ranks of the ruling Conservatives which has seen a cabinet member sacked from his position by leader Cllr Alan Jarrett.

Tonight campaigners against thousands of homes planned for Hoo and the Chatham Docks have gathered outside the St George's Centre in Chatham where the full council meeting will go ahead to show their opposition – despite the crucial vote being dropped.

Outside protesters waved placards and banners and chanted “Save Chatham Docks” and “Save Chatham Jobs”.

One banner reads: "It's time to scrap the HIF project. Stop Wainscott Flyover. A-289 is unsustainable."

Campaigners hjave gathered outside medway Council meeting to show their opposition to the draft Local Plan. Photo: Katie May Nelson
Campaigners hjave gathered outside medway Council meeting to show their opposition to the draft Local Plan. Photo: Katie May Nelson

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst has also hit out at the draft Local Plan which was due to be presented to councillors, describing it as "flawed".

Speaking to KMTV, she said: "Everyone recognises that we need to build enough houses.

"But one of the key things about this Local Plan is where the housing is going and what infrastructure is going to come with that.

The Tory added: "We haven't really had a debate about where the housing is to go.

"We've just been told they are going to displace a load of jobs to build some flats and we're going to build houses on what was a gifted piece of land to the local community."

"Let's have a debate about where that housing goes. There is a lot of land across Medway."

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst outlines her concerns

On this point the MP added her area had taken its "fair share" and this had been a point of contention with local residents.

When asked if government targets were unattainable, she responded: "It is down to local authorities to assess their local need and come up with the arguments as to where they want to build and where they don't want to build."

Gary Rosewell, who is part of the Chathams Dock Campaign, also outlined his opposition.

He said: "I have come today to voice my opinion of the closure of Chatham Docks and how futile and stupid it is.

"We employ people ons serious wages which they will not get if the Dock closes. We load ships that takes material up to London that does not go by road.

"If we go that will have to go by road which will increase the pollution," he added. "This is absolutely not good for the environment."

John Castle, chair of Medway Liberal Democrats, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he stands "behind the workers of the dockyard".

He said: "We firmly believe the docks should remain for industrial use.

"The business case for keeping the Docks open and investing in the Docks rather than redeveloping it is very strong indeed."

The council's planning blueprint for tens of thousands of new homes was sensationally pulled at the last minute following a backlash among councillors with concerns the plan was "incomplete and flawed".

This included vital documents which were missing surrounding transport and sustainability measures.

Concerns also remain about decisions to allocate thousands of homes in controversial locations including Deangate, Chatham Docks and the Hoo Peninsula.

Meanwhile, the authority has moved to explain that although it understands opposition to some of the housing, it is bound by a government-imposed quota for more than 27,000 new properties.

Ahead of tonight's meeting, Cllr Jane Chitty, portfolio holder for economic growth, said hard decisions have to be made and wherever the homes go, they'll be met with opposition.

She said: "I absolutely understand how people have valued their living in the open countryside, of course we all value that.

"However, when we had as part of the Local Plan process a call for sites, you can't ignore it.

Cllr Chitty added: "The draft Local Plan is important because it will affect everybody across Medway and it is a very complex piece of work.

“The mass of people are trusting us to act in their best interest and we’re doing that within the framework that government has laid out, so therefore, it is about people right across Medway and the quality of their life.”

Tonight's meeting will also be broadcast live online from 7.30pm. Click here for more details and the full council agenda.

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