Plans for new homes re­jected as ‘un­re­al­is­tic’

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Countryfile - by Paul Fran­cis po­lit­i­cal ed­i­tor pfran­cis@thek­m­

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL Gov­ern­ment plans for a huge ex­pan­sion of house-build­ing in Kent and the South East have come un­der fresh fire on two fronts.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say the plans for 122,000 more homes in Kent be­tween now and 2026, 17,000 more than was orig­i­nally set out in the South East Plan, jeop­ar­dises swathes of green­field land that should be pro­tected.

In a hard-hit­ting re­sponse, the Kent branch of the CPRE (Cam­paign for the Pro­tec­tion of Ru­ral Eng­land) says the fig­ures for new homes are un­re­al­is­tic in view of the eco­nomic down­turn and over­look the im­por­tance of safe­guard­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Coun­cils and oth­ers have been given one last chance to make for­mal rep­re­sen­ta­tions over the South East Plan, which will shape the way Kent and the re­gion de­vel­ops over the next two decades. Con­sul­ta­tion ended last week and co­in­cided with a warn­ing that house build­ing has slumped in key Kent growth ar­eas be­cause of the re­ces­sion.

De­spite this, the Gov­ern­ment is push­ing for higher tar­gets, with parts of Kent ear­marked for big­ger in­creases in new homes.

Wa­ter sup­ply

Kent CPRE se­nior plan­ner Brian Lloyd said: “We are con­cerned the plan is overly fo­cused on hous­ing, with scant at­ten­tion be­ing given to its im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment and the in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices needed to sup­port it. For ex­am­ple, the plan specif­i­cally iden­ti­fies Can­ter­bury and Maid­stone as ar­eas where wa­ter sup­ply will be a po­ten­tial con­straint to de­vel­op­ment, but de­spite this Gov­ern­ment ex­pects both coun­cils to plan for 3,000 more homes each than in the draft plan.”

Mean­while, coun­cil chiefs are for­mally op­pos­ing key changes that min­is­ters want to force through, say­ing they risk homes be­ing built without any sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture like new roads or ex­tra schools.

The South East Eng­land Re­gional As­sem­bly (SEERA) says an at­tempt to make the tar­gets the min­i­mum fig­ure is an at­tempt to push up tar­gets through the back door.

SEERA as­sem­bly chair­man and Kent County Coun­cil leader Cllr Paul Carter (Con) said: “We need to make Gov­ern­ment re­alise it is un­re­al­is­tic to in­crease our an­nual house build­ing tar­get to a min­i­mum of 33,000 homes a year in the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate. A min­i­mum tar­get means we can’t plan ef­fec­tively for the land and in­fra­struc­ture we need.”

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