HOUSING REBELLION: Parties join forces to take case to government
Friday 31st January 2020
A CROSS-party letter to government about “unachievable” housing targets has been sent to the housing minister.
The borough faces 28,000 new homes by 2037 and residents are worried Maidstone can barely cope with the numbers it has got.
The letter was inspired by the 5,000 home “garden village” proposed by Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council as its "master developer".
Protestors and two borough councillors tried to pass a motion to suspend building in the borough.
But a Conservative-led counter proposal before Christmas by opposition group leader Cllr John Perry led to the direct approach to government.
Now a three-page plea to Robert Jenrick MP, the housing and communities’ secretary, details the concerns about targets imposed by central government.
The letter states: “…community resistance with a firm anti-housebuilding sentiment is widespread ,with positive consultation and engagement extremely difficult to achieve.”
It is hoped pressure can be applied by MPs Helen Whately and Helen Grant to persuade Mr Jenrick to revise the methodology used to calculate housing numbers.
The 2017 Local Plan has 17,600 houses but a review may mean 10,500 more. Fewer than 7,000 of the 28,100 potential target homes have been delivered, according to MBC figures.
And while the Lib Dem leader of the council, Cllr Martin Cox, has endorsed and promoted his authority’s house-building programme, he is ironically one of the signatories to the letter, as is his deputy Cllr Fay Gooch.
Cllr Cox argues that the housing targets are impositions from the government which the council must comply with or face losing planning controls.
One council insider remarked: “Martin’s in an awkward spot three months out from the next local council elections. You can’t claim to be a master developer in one breath and tell the government the targets are unachievable in the next. It’s inconsistent.”
Cllr Perry, Mrs Grant, Labour group leader Cllr Malcolm McKay and Independent Maidstone leader Cllr Eddie Powell are also among those who signed.
An MBC statement said: “It formally expresses concerns around the government’s methodology for setting housing targets for each council and it also raises four specific ‘asks’ for the Secretary of State to consider.”
The letter claims the amount of government funding for “infrastructure projects” is inadequate and developer contributions (section 106 money) only cover local impacts caused by building.
The council leadership has lately faced damning accusations of being “officer-led” rather than by the elected members.
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