Gales View - 21st September 2011

The proposed development of Hillborough is highly contentious.  Nobody would deny the likelihood of a need for more family housing to serve the interests of the growing population of Herne Bay.  Balancing that need with the protection of the townscape and the rural environment is going to require, however, a very great deal of thought and care and I do not personally believe that the present aspirant developer, Kitewood, has to date applied anything like sufficient diligence to their proposition.
 
I note that in response to my observation that the outline plan offered to the people of the town for `consultation` recently was “a mess” Kitewood have suggested that they did not, for example, claim that they would “build a new primary school”.  Unfortunately not only I but local councillors were standing silently and listening when Kitewood`s spokesman said precisely that!
 
The developer is seeking to give the impression that a great and philanthropic gesture will be made and that, additionally, the much needed Blacksole footbridge will emerge from this scheme.
 
In answer to questions it has become apparent that at the time of the public exhibition Kitewood had not even consulted with Kent County Council, as the education authority, over the need for a new primary school and was only “in the process of negation” to acquire land, from Network Rail, that they do not own and without which the footbridge cannot be built.
 
Setting aside the fact that the “gift” of a small parcel of land and some cash under a Section 106 agreement does not constitute “building a new primary school”, local residents are acutely aware that the real need to the East of Herne Bay is for a new secondary school to obviate the requirement for all of those families living in Reculver, Beltinge, Broomfield and even much of the town centre to send their children past their “local” school and off to Whitstable, Canterbury or even Faversham and Thanet to be educated.  Secondary Schools, of course, with their demand for playing fields, take up a lot more land and, incidentally, preserve a lot more green open space than primary schools.  I would hope very much that the City`s planners will bear this very much in mind when considering any application for the development of this area and will, in the light of the provisions of the Localism Bill, ensure that their local plan clearly reflects this need while that opportunity still exists.
 
There is, then, the suggestion that “hundreds” of jobs will be created and, finally, that a new supermarket will serve the needs of what will amount, embracing belting and Reculver, to a new village.
 
Altira Park shows no sign, at present, of attracting the job-creating industrial and commercial investment that was indicated when that consent was granted and, indeed, were it otherwise then the Blacksole footbridge would, by now, have been built under the terms of that permission. Where, therefore, all of this new employment-generating interest that is going to provide the work for the families resident in New Hillborough is to materialise from it is hard to see. And I think it is fair to say that we now have sufficient evidence to know the likely effect, upon local small village shops and even upon the Town centre, of new supermarkets.
 
No responsible Member of Parliament should seek to preserve his or her constituency in aspic and I do not seek to do so.  That we will need new family homes and new opportunities for employment for the young people of The Bay is a given.  I believe, though, that we are entitled to demand that the scale and infrastructure needed to support any new development is subject to meticulous care and to the greatest possible scrutiny before any plans are passed.
 
I would like to think that if Kitewood wish to win the hearts and minds and support of the people that I represent then they will take a deep breath, return, literally, to the drawing board and come forward with a proposition that demonstrates  both that they intend to first meet their existing commitments and to then show a proper respect for and understanding of the area in which they wish to build.

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