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LENHAM HEATH: Lib Dem council bosses isolated on eve of public meeting on homes

Monday 20th January 2020

COUNCIL opposition leader John Perry will not attend a public meeting on Friday evening when the borough's senior executive faces wrath of Lenham Heath residents over a proposal to build 5,000 houses there.
Tory members on Maidstone Borough Council agreed on Friday night Cllr Perry should not go along insisting the MBC Liberal Democrat leadership's "immediate priority now should be pushing-back on the overall housing targets we face".
MBC is now styling itself as the "master developer" of the scheme, which has the recently-appointed MBC director, William Cornall, as the lead officer in charge of it.

The scheme involves acquiring large chunks of land to build the houses and amenities, as well as incorporating a new motorway junction on the M20 nearby and a high-speed rail station.
It leaves Liberal Democrat council leader, Cllr Martin Cox, his deputy and Mr Cornall to face the anger of Lenham's residents. 
If Cllr Cox felt he could count on Cllr Perry (who in December achieved a cross-party consensus with a motion to approach central Government, via local MPs, with a view to readjusting Maidstone's housing figures) for some support, he will be disappointed.
And Cllr Cox might also find the Labour group leader Malcolm MacKay - upon whom he relied to form a minority administration in May 2019 - will also be absent. Cllr MacKay is now "in two minds" about attending.
In a possible reference to accusations made about a lack of transparency and secrecy about how MBC conducted the approaches to owners of land at Lenham Heath, Cllr Perry said: "We’re always pretty keen to hear people's views and anybody with any concerns about house-building is welcome to contact their local Conservative councillors or council candidates for help.  
“I would probably have attended this sort of meeting had it been held six months ago when it should have been. But the council’s immediate priority now should be pushing back on the overall housing targets we face and working through all the proposed sites currently on the table to see which can be eliminated ASAP.  That’s what our motion to the council before Christmas said.”   
Cllr Cox could feel politically isolated as the independent Lenham borough councillors Tom and Janetta Sams - whose votes he also needed to form his council last May - have already publicly deserted him.
The Independent Maidstone group leader Cllr Eddie Powell, who has been the fiercest critic of the way in which MBC has conducted itself, believes the council's leadership has "effectively pre-determined" its own plan with public money, an approach he says "stinks".
Save Our Heath Land's public meeting is on January 24 at Lenham Community Centre from 7.30 - 9pm.