Local Planning — Letter to Damian Collins MP

Today our Labour candidate for Folkestone & Hythe, Laura Davison, sent a letter to Damian Collins MP, ahead of several council planning meetings this evening, where controversial developments such as Folkestone Seafront and Princes Parade will be put to a vote. This is what she wrote:
 

Dear Damian,
Now is a moment to stand up for the constituents you are supposed to represent.
There is a concerted attack on our beautiful district from development driven by the greed of the few rather than the benefit of the many. This is happening on your doorstep, in Folkestone with the high-rise seafront development, in Hythe with Prince’s Parade and in the way Otterpool garden town is being pushed through regardless of local concern.
This is happening despite empty words from your own government and from Theresa May who said in a recent TV interview: “Crucially, we want to put local people at the heart of planning issues by way of the Local Plan and the Planning Rule Book. We also want them to be assured that planning applications include the necessary support in terms of schools, GPs and roads.” Damian can you please call Shepway planners and Tory councillors for a natter?!
Tonight campaigners are urging Shepway planning councillors to throw out so-called ‘minor amendments’ to Folkestone’s seafront development. The changes are not minor (increased heights of buildings, removal of amenities, knocking down the Harbour Master’s house) – they are major and should mean a fresh application from developers.
There should be a real chance for local people to put their creativity and ideas into what the future of Folkestone seafront looks like. This is our asset, and our young people’s future. As for the developers — once they have put it up they will be gone. We actually have to live with it.
We are not against development, but we do want a public meeting to question the plans. We don’t want just luxury flats, and we don’t want a half-finished white elephant. We do want council housing and we do want things for local people to do, and which will bring visitors to our beautiful town. We need investment in our schools and GP surgeries — but money for this appears to be carved out of a cut-price sum offered by developers to make up for the changes they want. It’s just not good enough.
Today there are also critical town and parish council meetings happening in Hythe and Sandgate about the Princes Parade development. Is it a coincidence that these meetings are all happening on the same day, just one day after the bank holiday weekend and during the Easter holidays?
The Environment Agency says there needs to be a 25m buffer alongside the canal in Hythe because development that encroaches on watercourses has a particularly severe impact on their ecological value. Shepway Council is disputing this without providing any evidence to back this up.
Historic England has objected to the Princes Parade planning application because of the harm the development will cause to the setting of the Royal Military Canal. The benefits don’t outweigh the harm when there is an alternative site to build the promised Leisure Centre. Will any affordable housing — which is part of the scheme — be built in reality?
There are 1457 on the housing register — half of these are families. Will these people be able to afford to live in the affordable housing being promised? Will the numbers of affordable houses go down as the costs of developing the project go up, as has been the case in previous applications?
We don’t know if the project is financially viable. Financial viability calculations which are vital in determining whether the supposed public benefits can be delivered have not been released.
How many care homes that are providing help to elderly or disabled people who need support to live independently are being sold off to make way for housing throughout Shepway? The Willows Care Home in Stade Street is an example. It provided support for people with learning disabilities. It is now going to come before the planning committee in Hythe as a first step to get change of use to provide more flats. This is while people with learning disabilities are increasingly having to be housed outside the areas where they live because of shortages of supported housing.
We are urging Hythe Town Council to question more and then throw out these plans that are being presented to them on Tuesday.
As our MP will you raise these crucial issues in parliament? Will you call for these planning decisions to be looked at independently? They are too important to be left in the hands of your Tory council friends. Especially after a high court judge overturned another planning decision they made and criticised evidence as unreliable. You can see more details here:
http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2018/238.html
The same administration will now be making decisions about Folkestone, about Hythe and about Otterpool. These decisions are political choices and they should be made with proper scrutiny and in the interests of the many not the few. Current councillors should remember that district council elections are just a year away.
Our district deserves better than this. Labour is committed to meaningful public consultation, genuinely affordable homes and council housing, amenities, proper infrastructure and investment for the benefit of local people.
Yours sincerely,
Laura Davison
Folkestone and Hythe Labour general election candidate, 2017

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