• Local authorities like Medway Council are required to write a Local Plan setting out how the area will grow in the future – where houses will go, where businesses can set up, and what services (eg schools, doctors, transport) there will be in the future
• Local authorities are obliged by national government to try and find space for a target number of houses. Medway needs to find space for about 19,000 houses between 2017-2035 for the whole of Medway. (To give you a comparison, there are about 6,000 houses on the Hoo Peninsula). If they don’t, then government steps in and chooses instead, so it is not something Medway Council can back out of.
• However, last year the Government came up new formula for working out how many new houses there should be. Because Medway Council hasn’t finished its Local Plan, the new figure applies, which is 27,000 more houses instead of 19,000.
• Medway Council’s new proposals have four options. All of them involve turning Hoo St Werburgh/Chattenden into what Medway Council calls a ‘small rural town’ and expanding some of the Peninsula’s villages. What does this mean? It isn’t clear, but the four options vary from 9,318 to 12,162 extra houses for the Peninsula.
Now here’s the hard reality:
• Almost nobody wants extra houses next to them, but at the same time we accept that extra housing is needed in the future in Medway. More of us are are living longer, and quite rightly we will want to stay in our houses, but our children and grandchildren need a home to move into as well.
• And people need jobs, so that means land allocated where people can set up business.
• So we can’t stick our heads in the sand. Houses are going to get built. The big question is: how do we ensure the Council plans for the right number of houses in the right places that don’t destroy our wonderful home here on the Peninsula?
• After the consultation, Medway Council will write its final plan, and it will go in front of an independent inspector, so we need to make our case because even if the Council doesn’t listen, the Inspector might.
So here is what you may wish to put into your response to the Council’s consultation. If you agree, please copy, paste and send to firstname.lastname@example.org by 25 June 2018 latest. Please add a few words of your own to make it personal.
1. We accept that some extra houses are needed in Medway, but we think that every community in Medway must take its share.
2. BUT we do NOT accept that Medway can accommodate 27,000 more houses between 2017-2035. The Council MUST show that they are doing everything possible to get government to agree that this is unsustainable for Medway.
3. We think that 10-12,000 extra houses on the Peninsula is WAY too many. That would destroy everything that makes the Peninsula special.
4. The Council admits the number of people in Medway is not increasing as fast as it was – so we ask the Council to recalculate and reduce the total number of houses it needs
5. It is impossible to tell from the consultation what number of houses are allocated where on the Peninsula, so we would like the Council to work with us on a ‘masterplan’ to include in the Local Plan, before any more housing applications get passed, so we can agree what houses, transport infrastructure (including public transport), doctors, schools, and shops are needed, where and when. The Council must pledge an end to piecemeal development here until that masterplan is in place.
6. We want the masterplan to consider the people who already live here, so that new housing fits in with our lives and our communities and doesn’t ruin people’s lives.
7. We think the Council hasn’t explored several key options that are essential. For example, the Council should consider an attractive development at Kingsnorth. And the Council should consider redevelopment of Chatham town centre with housing options. These must be on the table, not just dismissed.
8. Medway Council must share with the people the plans they have for the roads and railways on the Peninsula, and for tackling air pollution. If the Council already has bids in for funding, there must be plans already, and we should see them.
9. The Local Plan must have more detail about the future of hospitals in Medway. It must include a timeline and possible locations.
10. We want the Council not to sacrifice protected places, such as Lodge Hill SSSI. Protected places should be Medway’s trump card to say to government, “Hold on, we’ve got nationally and internationally protected places here, there’s a genuine limit under national rules to what housing can go here”.
We are willing to work with Medway Council in a constructive dialogue. We want to know that Medway Council is genuinely willing to work with us.