Medway Council the HIF Bid and Growth for Hoo and a refusal to engage
Sounds like a soap opera episode doesn’t it? But this drama is been played out right now and right here on The Hoo Peninsula.
The HIF £170 million grant potentially makes Medway the biggest regeneration zone within the Thames Gateway. Once the deal is signed it will unlock a programme to build 10600 houses on the Hoo Peninsula. Not in the towns but here on our doorstep.
We have the right to know how it will affect us
Peninsula Ward Councillors, Parish Councillors and members of the public have been asking Medway Council a series of basic questions about the plans that will affect our health and way of life over the next 30 years. The response we have had so far has been completely inadequate, to be frank Medway is conducting an exercise of evasion and point blank refusal.
Instead Medway published a glossy brochure “Planning for Growth on the Hoo Peninsula”. A developers sales brochure using stock photos of developments around the UK. Very few real images of the Peninsula and certainly :–
- No pictures of dozens of parked HGV’s and the human waste that seem to accompany them.
- No pictures of the destruction of the golf course.
- No mention of overrun hard working GP services.
- No mention of our council run children’s services in special measures.
- No details of the growing air pollution problems at Four Elms Hill.
- No real information about housing numbers in the the areas .
- No details of what real infrastructure will be provided at each stage.
My response to Medway Council
The Planning for Growth on the Hoo Peninsula Consultation 2020 – Medway Council Local Plan
I most strongly object to the emerging Medway Council Local Plan and Medway Council’s current Development Strategy with regards to the development of a “Small Rural Town” around Hoo and Chattenden.
I note that Hoo Parish Council will be making a full response and representation to Medway Council when they publish their draft Neighbourhood Plan and will also be presenting a comprehensive report, including evidence and statistics to the Independent Examiner and the Secretary of State.
A very shiny and factually incorrect document has been produced. It’s a developers sales pitch and bears no resemblance to Hoo and the way developments have destroyed the area.
Most of the photographs are not of Hoo but rather they depict the “fairytale Medway” is trying to sell to the people of Hoo. This document lacks facts in every chapter and has no details of how many houses and where they will .
Residents have expressed time and time again that they have no wish for this level of development without a full assessment of the impact and a proper ‘Area Action Plan’ is produced to which they can have a real and meaningful input. Only by a full consultation with the people of the Hoo Peninsula and listening and acting upon that consultation will residents become partners in a scheme of this magnitude. We cannot achieve the vision set out in this fantasy consultative document.
It is obvious from recent developments that Medway Councils local plan is in fact a developers led plan and that commercial priorities will influence and control the large number of developments.
Protection of the Ecology that surrounds and encompasses the whole of our Peninsula is crucial to the health and well-being of the whole of the Medway, Kent and beyond. “Planning for growth on the Hoo Peninsula“ and the Local Plan does nothing to protect our ecology and makes no mention of the fundamental need to asses the impact of such a large number of homes..
The Local Plan must avoid harming the natural environment and protect the best of our heritage. The inclusion of the Hoo Peninsula into the Kent Downs AONB is a way forward of protecting and developing our natural and historical area with its ancient woodlands, grasslands intertidal habitats and marshes, all of which are of national and international importance. The Peninsula was not included in the Kent Downs ANOB in the late 1990’s although it is an obvious inclusion especially being a natural escarpment of the North Kent Downs.
Inclusion in AONB would not be a deterrent to development. It demands a better quality of build and the use of materials which are integral to the character of the area and is harmonious within the landscape. However, this of course should not be seen as a reason not to build “affordable housing”. In fact it could and should lead to a growth in community led rural housing. Much of this type housing should be ring fenced for people with a link to the Peninsula or work here. Providing this type of housing would enable young people and families to remain in close to home and this in turn benefits the whole community.
We need to encourage the vast numbers of empty homes in Medway back into the housing market. Have all of the many homes, flats and apartments above shops and maybe ex-military homes and government houses been identified and included into local housing needs?
Whilst Medway planners talk up cycling routes and public transport, we all know that for all new rural developments, the private car is the chosen form of travel being more reliable and for many the only option. This has a knock on effect for our air quality. Let’s not forget that during the construction of these houses, rail station and roads the concentrations of air pollutants will be exacerbated. No suggestions to reduce this impact has been made for the movement of construction materials during building and the thousands of tons of waste removed offsite by rail, road and water. How does the Local Plan mitigate for the the Carbon targets agreed in the Paris Accord?.
The rural town this plan talks about for Hoo creates many problems, the village has lost its banking facilities and what town can survive without banks. Our stand alone Post Office with sorting office used for the whole Peninsula has gone, along with our Police Station with no local police contact point. What town would you like to live in without a proper police presence. And of course this plan has not included any housing numbers for each of the neighbourhoods mentioned, making it very difficult for people to get a sense of the scale of destruction of our Peninsula.
School and school places must keep up with all these new developments and new communities as soon as they are planned and NOT after. These school places must be ring fenced for local children to prevent excessive travel.
The closure of Deangate Ridge Golf Club, a massive social and sporting area is at odds with improving sports, social facilities and well being. Why was it not recognised that Deangate Ridge should be a centre for sports, and well-being? A Peninsula sports and leisure centre is imperative. Deangate Ridge could become a Country Park that includes a swimming pool, indoor sports and fitness centre. This would go a long way to create health and social well being across the whole Peninsula.
Hoo Peninsula has a rich history of agriculture and fruit farming and these fields and orchards should be protected. Over the last few years these are falling to development and the Local Plan should protect such areas. The retention of high quality farm land is a priority, once concreted over they are lost forever. Large scale development without thought of the demand on fresh water supply, which we all know is a finite commodity, will make things worse. Are there any plans to protect surface and groundwater resources?What plans are there for the treatment of the obvious massive increase in waste water?
Air quality is a major concern. Monitoring of air quality seems very minimal and any increase in vehicle transport particularly HGVs will have exacerbate levels of nitrogen dioxide. What measures are in place to monitor ongoing air quality?
Public transport on the Hoo Peninsula is abysmal and the inclusion of a rail service has been added as an afterthought. There is nothing to suggest a bus terminal at the proposed station therefore encouraging car movements across the Peninsula. This will not help air quality. Why is there no mention of utilising the rail link to take HGV traffic away from Kingsnorth by having goods transported by train? Why is there no thoughts on river usage around Kingsnorth? Would the remote rural areas of the Peninsula be better served by mini buses to and from a bus hub at the new station or Kingsnorth?
Healthcare is one of the major concerns to people of the Peninsula and it is important that provision is made for a healthy living centre or other supplementary healthcare facility. This will take away the constant need for travel to Medway Maritime which is becoming difficult for the elderly and disabled. This would of course take pressure off this very busy hospital. We cannot ignore the fact that the life expectancy for Medway residents is lower than the average for England.
Any encroachment of our villages beyond their present envelopes must be avoided as each and every village of the Peninsula has its own character and the green buffer zones between villages must be preserved and enhanced . It is with this that comes the problem of developers using the cheaper option of contributing to existing open spaces, rather than incorporating new open spaces within developments
Developers should be encouraged to use distinct character of the area and not just squeeze as many dwellings on a site as possible. People need to be comfortable with their new surroundings. The inclusion of communal space for all residents is essential The Coronavirus virus emergency has shown the need for local and domestically grown food, which help with supply and mental well-being. More allotments and larger gardens should be supported and advice given to developers to create these.
Four Elms Hill, the gateway to the Peninsula has been upgraded in the past but it has never kept place with development. The provision of a relief road, and new and upgraded roads is the latest promise. I and many residents are believe that these latest suggestions, which KCC have commented will be inadequate, will be insufficient for the residential development proposed and woefully inadequate if you add the vast amount of commercial development being undertaken and proposed at Kingsnorth.
Medway Council are vastly under estimating the investment in transport infrastructure required to sustain a development on the Peninsula on this scale.
Resident will never agree to 12,000 extra houses here and like me are incensed by Medway Council plans to that the to concrete over our unique Peninsula at all costs.
These plans for changing Hoo village into a rural town (whatever a rural town now is) are unsustainable.
Hoo Peninsula Ward Councillor