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Medway Council issue call for sites for new local plan to meet target of 28,339 homes by 2040

Medway Council is looking at all possible sites for development in order to meet government housing targets, but is uncertain they will be able to meet them.

The authority must find space to build 28,339 houses by 2040 in order to meet national housing targets and are set to begin a consultation process on where to put them.

7,583 homes are already in the pipeline
7,583 homes are already in the pipeline

This is called Regulation 18 and is known as a call for sites. This was carried out between 2016 and 2018 by the previous Conservative council but they voted to restart in October last year.

However, the council joins other local authorities in recent criticism of central government policy, suggesting that housing targets are unreasonable and need to be lowered.

The council’s Local Plan aims to set out a strategy for meeting the national government’s housing targets, which are 1,667 homes per year for Medway - 28,339 by 2040.

With 7,583 homes already in the pipeline, and a predicted 3,000 windfall sites, which are developments not within a structured Local Plan, the council says it has to find sites for 19,173 houses.

But with environmental, infrastructure, and local opposition considerations, there is some uncertainty about whether the 19,173 figure can be reached.

Cllr Simon Curry, portfolio holder for climate change and strategic regeneration said “We’re not sure we can deliver that, it’s a huge figure imposed upon us from above.

Medway council cabinet member Simon Curry
Medway council cabinet member Simon Curry

“If there was a Labour government we may get a different figure, but we have no idea. At the moment, we work with what we’ve got.

“We’ve got various parties lobbying for different things, we feel that going into the plan is the fairest way of dealing with the conflicts.

“It is going to be difficult, we’re not going to deny that.”

The early stages of the consultation will include all possible areas within Medway, including controversial areas such as Capstone Valley and Chatham Docks, for consideration.

When asked what it would mean if residents rejected development in certain areas and the council is unable to meet its targets, Cllr Curry said: “At the end of the day, we have our elected democratic process to make those difficult decisions.

The housing target needs to be met by 2040
The housing target needs to be met by 2040

“We’ve got to get the balance right. We’ve got to try and be as equitable as possible, so the burden of taking on new development is shared across the whole community.”

Labour’s new Local Plan will see the controversial decision to include Chatham Docks as a possible location for housing development, a decision which even the Labour leader, Cllr Vince Maple, previously opposed.

The docks have been added to the list of sites to consider development in order to meet housing targets by 2040.

It does not mean that the site will definitely be developed, but it is on the table as an option.

During the next stage of the Regulation 18 consultation, sites will be assessed for sustainability and site analysis.

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

If they are deemed unsuitable due to environmental, infrastructure, or viability constraints, they will be removed from the list of considered locations.

Previous plans to turn the docks into a residential area have faced protests by the Save Chatham Docks campaign and businesses on the site, a campaign which the Labour group have been advocates for in the past.

The discussion of housing on Chatham Docks dogged the previous Conservative administration, receiving widespread criticism from across the political spectrum and from local businesses.

Peel Land and Property (L&P) previously proposed development plans for the site that would create 3,625 homes and business spaces on the dockland.

Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst (Con), a long-term campaigner to save Chatham Docks said: "It's disappointing Chatham Docks is in the mix and that the Labour group is considering it rather than rule it out."

MP Kelly Tolhurst
MP Kelly Tolhurst

Phil Taylor, chief executive of ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, a business operating on the site, said: "We are disappointed that Labour has gone back on its campaign to save the docks. It does feel like a betrayal.

"But it is not a done deal. It has to go through a legal planning process before being allocated to housing."

Despite previous support for the Save Chatham Docks campaign, council leader Cllr Vince Maple has been non-committal about the development.

Speaking in May, after winning the local elections, he said: “We need to get all parties in the same room, Medway Council, Peel L&P (the landowners) and the Save the Docks people.

“This stand-off can’t continue and we must find a way forward. It’s no good just sitting in offices and not answering letters.”

The consultation for the Local Plan will begin on September 18 and last until October 31, if confirmed at the next cabinet meeting.

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