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Swale council's new coalition aims to bring down house-building targets

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A curb on excessive house-building will be a key priority of the new political alliance set to run one of Kent's councils - and it could mean a controversial “garden city” scheme being halted.

The new ruling administration at Swale Borough Council will be formed by a coalition of the 10-strong Swale Independents group; the 11-strong Labour group; the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The 'rainbow alliance' is a first for Kent in local government, which has not seen an independent group taking a hand in running any council before.

Mike Baldock of Swale Independents group
Mike Baldock of Swale Independents group

The authority moved to no overall control after the local elections with the former Conservative administration outnumbered by the other parties.

The new council is set to be headed by Labour councillor Roger Truelove.

Housing and development were a focal point of the campaign, with the Swale Independents group promising to limit what it saw as overdevelopment which was not supported by necessary infrastructure.

The new council is expected to move to halt plans for a new-style "garden community" of 11,500 homes.

The scheme, by Quinn Estates, would create thousands of properties, shops, GP surgeries and up to four primary schools on farmland in the Highsted Valley near Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne.

Plans for 11,500 homes in Swale could be scuppered by the new ruling coalition
Plans for 11,500 homes in Swale could be scuppered by the new ruling coalition

Cllr Mike Baldock, who leads the Swale Independents group, said there would be a radical approach to housing under the new council.

Speaking on “Paul On Politics” on KMTV, he indicated there would be a move to bring down house-building targets that were set by the former Conservative-run council as part of the Local Plan.

“We are going to have a radical new approach to housing…it is going to be hugely different. We want to see housing people can afford.

"I think the alliance is going to work very well. We have seen almost euphoria on social media about deposing the Tories. People are saying you have all got to work together.”

He confirmed the council would be looking to amend the Local Plan - a 20-year blueprint setting out house-building targets for the area.

Cllr Roger Truelove said there was a consensus amongst the four groups about the approach to housing, particularly social housing.

Cllr Roger Truelove will become council leader. Picture: Andy Payton
Cllr Roger Truelove will become council leader. Picture: Andy Payton

Green Party councillor Tim Valentine, who ousted Conservative leader Andrew Bowles, said the election results was not just a protest vote.

He said: “The whole climate change issue came to the fore just before the election with the Extinction Rebellion protest in London.”

But he acknowledged that an unofficial pact with other parties had played a part in the Green success.

He added: “We looked around to see where other parties were stronger and where they were weaker and we coordinated our campaign to make sure we weren’t tripping over each other.”

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