Published: 14:59, 20 February 2021
| Updated: 15:05, 20 February 2021
The council's Local Plan consultation could be extended by more than five weeks after Tory councillors wrote to the Secretary of State.
Sheppey and Sittingbourne Conservative councillors called for an extension after residents were given six weeks, the minimum period required, to comment on the plans, which is more than 1,000 pages long.
The group wrote to Secretary of State Robert Jenrick asking for a review after slamming the council's coalition for "rushing it through".
Previously Cllr Alan Horton, leader of the council's Conservative Group, said: “This is the biggest, most important consultation the council carries out.
“To rush it through in the way the coalition administration is doing is simply wrong.
“People need the chance to fully understand what the plan means for them and their communities and have ample time to respond.”
Now councillors are being asked to extended the consultation by 38 days, until Friday, April 30.
If approved at a full council meeting on Wednesday, February 24, the total consultation period will be almost 12 weeks.
Cllr James Hunt (Con, The Meads) added: “It is unrealistic to expect residents and parish councils to absorb such an enormous amount of information in such a short time, especially if the information is changing, incomplete or inaccurate.
“Regardless of the many issues with the Plan, there has to be adequate time for consultation, and the council should extend the period.”
Cllr Mike Baldock, deputy leader and cabinet member for planning, said: “We are proud of the policies and innovative approaches proposed in the local plan review in response to the imposed Government housing targets.
“We have never before had to conduct a review of a local plan during a pandemic. Without the ability to hold face-to-face meetings and make draft documentation available in public places, running an effective and inclusive consultation is more difficult.
“We’re working to overcome these challenges the best way we can by holding virtual meetings, making the plan available on our website and mailing out hard copies to those who need them.
“As a listening council, we want to respond positively to public requests for more time, and we are asking councillors to extend the consultation period to the 30 April.
“We know it’s important for local people to have enough time to review the draft plan and put forward their representations, so we’ll be asking councillors to approve the extension to the consultation period at next week’s full council meeting.”
The consultation started on Monday, February 8 and the local plan review can be viewed on the council’s website.
The full report can be viewed here.