Published: 17:25, 13 February 2020
| Updated: 17:47, 13 February 2020
The war of words between an MP and his borough council over a £38 million Government hand-out has taken a turn for the worse.
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson on KMTV
In an open letter to the MP, Cllr Truelove, who is also the coalition leader, wrote today (Thursday) : "As we are both aware, a certain level of political heat has been generated following our decision to withdraw support to the Kent County Council bid for Housing Infrastructure Funds.
"I note your view that we are obsessed by environmental issues, that we are incompetent and that we should all resign.
"Whilst I don't regard these comments as especially helpful, they are the stuff of contemporary political dialogue and you are fully entitled to say what you like.
"But last Friday KMTV broadcast an interview in which you emphatically described the council’s official press statement as a lie.
"In so doing, you were calling all our cabinet members, our deputy cabinet members and our officers liars. This is unacceptable.
"People will have different views, interpret evidence in different ways and have different accounts of the provenance of past decisions. None of us do any service to public discourse by accusing others of lying.
"I am writing to you to ask you to apologise for trying to stigmatise Swale council as a corporate body and many councillors by calling our honestly expressed view a lie."
In the pre-filmed interview broadcast on FridayMr Henderson accused the council of misleading the public.
He said: "Their press release said they are no longer supporting this bid because it was tied to having to have more houses.
"That is a lie."
"This is nothing about new housing. This is about housing already in the pipeline. And that housing will go ahead - and we won't have the roads to support it. And it will be down to the incompetence of Swale council."
His outburst followed a council comment which was released on the Tuesday.
It said: "Swale Borough Council is bitterly disappointed in Kent County Council’s decision to press ahead with the £38 million Housing Infrastructure Fund bid for further housing dependant on junction changes to Grovehurst and Key Street.
"This decision was not taken in conjunction with Swale Borough Council and does not have the council’s support."
It quoted KCC's former cabinet member for transport Cllr Mike Whiting, who is also an aide of Mr Henderson's, saying the bid was for “housing that otherwise would not have been built, resulting in additional new homes” and was designed to “accelerate housing delivery.”
It claimed the bid was also an "opening to Garden Village-style proposals."
Cllr Mike Baldock, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for planning, said: “Despite Kent’s decision, we want to reassure residents that this council will not sign any undertakings to ‘accelerate housing delivery’ and will resist attempts to force through a failed housing model that clearly does not have local support.
“This decision makes our struggle against such irresponsible development much harder but there is a clear intention from certain quarters to push ahead with 1,000s of extra houses in our area regardless of local opinion.
"Despite the barriers others put in our way, we will not be bounced into delivering unacceptable housing numbers and more car-reliant dormitory estates.”
More by this authorJohn Nurden