Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dover and Out

Opposition to Dover District Council’s plans to build 14,000 new homes continues to gather momentum.

A well-attended meeting at Studdal Community Hall on Friday, March 6th led to calls for a Vote of No Confidence in Dover District Council.

Time is now short, with the deadline for submitting any more objections to the Council’s plans set for March 25.

The meeting began with a well put together presentation from Whitfield Action Group’s Jeff Goodsell.

Also speaking at the meeting convened by Kent County Councillor Eileen Rowbotham were Brian Lloyd of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and Rosie Rechter from the “Deal With It” group.

An hour from the trio was followed by an hour’s questions and answers.

Jeff put forward a compelling case against the District Council’s plans.

The Whitfield Parish Councillor questioned the sense of building so many houses when existing major employers such as Pfizer and the Port of Dover were shedding jobs.

Highlighting the Council’s decision to ignore the strength of opposition, he said just 32 people out of over 11,000 favoured the council’s preferred Option 4, with 1,594 supporting Option 1 (for 6,100 homes).

To widespread agreement, he said the council’s strategy was not thought through properly.

As he put it: “The Council’s plans will move the population and economic base out of the town. But you have to ask the question: what will attract people into Dover?”

Brian Lloyd of CPRE called the Local Development Framework “High-risk, undeliverable and inappropriate.” He explained that the plans unbalanced the overall development strategy for the South East, and questioned how many people would be willing to move to this area.

Rosie Rechter of ‘Deal With IT’ called the latest LDF document ‘intimidating’ and pointed out how DDC is completely ignoring the opinions of most of the people it consulted. She spoke of “serious anxieties” surrounding the plans and mentioned the amount of derelict land in Dover Town Centre – seven per cent – as against zero per cent in Canterbury.

She meanwhile pointed out the fragmentation of the existing town’s communities, owing to the geography of Dover. She believes planned new housing over four miles from the town centre will only make things worse. To loud applause she concluded: “We should all support the campaign Jeff Goodsell has been running.”

Questions from audience raised numerous points of concern. These were not revolutionaries by any stretch of the imagination, but solid, civilised citizens, representing many Town and Parish Councils and other community groups throughout Dover District, united by their passionate concern for the future of the District. People who simply want the best for the area and share the belief that DDC’s plans will not deliver it.

One member of the audience summed up the mood when she asked: “What sanction do we have against a District Council which is ignoring public opinion?” She went on to ask about a Vote of No Confidence in the Council.

Charlie Elphicke, the District’s Prospective Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, thanked Eileen Rowbotham for holding the meeting and raising the issues. He urged everyone to work together against the plans and said “I feel we should be creating jobs and prosperity, not building houses.”

Kent County Councillor Mike Eddy explained that something called a Community Call for Action might be possible – in effect, a petition organised by the local population.

Subjects of other questions concerned the problems of putting infrastructure in place - especially water - and the serious environmental impact and loss of Greenfield land.

Whitfield Action Group will meanwhile be convening a public meeting at Whitfield Village Hall at 7-30 on Friday, March 20. All are urged to attend.

Quotable quotes:

“Dover District Council’s 2020 Vision is for a World Class District; what we are getting is a world class ASDA and a world class housing estate.”

“The council is putting the cart before the horse.”

“Fourteen thousand houses represent an unjustified and unexplained change in strategy.”

“Quite frankly it is an unsustainable strategy. Effort should be placed in regenerating the economy of the district.”

“We have a fantastic opportunity. Please let’s not waste it.”

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