Councillor on Medway Council: The Issues
This is a similar problem to the Rochester Airport issue in some ways, in that it was apparently being (very quietly) prepared for housing development. The situation here is complicated by there being several parts to the farm land, originally with different landowners, and the protection from development on one part having been removed by the Labour and Liberal Democrat members of Medway Council back in 1999. Now, the whole site is being managed by Medway Council's countryside team, so perhaps the housing threat can be averted: we certainly intend to make sure this is so if at all possible, and are confident that we can.
It is clear that the site is not well suited to development, and we shall do whatever is necessary to ensure that it remains a green space, hopefully in its entirety. The latest news is that some fields are to be let for grazing purposes, and a grazing licence should be finalised shortly.
The Liberal Democrat group's attempt to gain some political capital from their petition to make the farm a country park didn't really achieve as much as they might like to think:
As usual, the lesson to be learned is: do not take too much notice of what the LibDems are up to—as it happens, it looks like very few people living in Medway do so anyway, as witnessed by their extremely low vote in the 2003 local elections here.
- The site was already designated as a country park in the emerging Medway Local Plan
- They got just 60 signatures and claim to be (and I quote from their FOCUS leaflet) "completely overwhelmed" by this. Compare this against the 441 that I and my colleagues in the now-defunct Davis Estate Residents Association (DERAC) got within a week or so for the start of the Rochester Airport campaign. This later became well over 2,000 objections to the proposed development of the airport that we were able to lodge by the (again tight) deadline for the Local Plan.
- The country park issue will not be pursued (at least at this stage) as it would preclude access to funding under the local nature reserve scheme (called Wildspace) which is funded by Lottery money and administered by English Nature—something we are actively pursuing.