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Cllr Ron Hewett

Cllr Ron Hewett

 Cllr John Ward

Cllr John Ward

Well, we've been on the Council for some time now, and with two mammoth exercises now effectively dealt with, this is a good time to put out a Horsted-specific newsletter. Issues here have been covered in our broader-coverage news bulletins (and it's always useful to let our neighbours know of issues here—they might want to stand with us) but it's good to do our own too!

Rochester Airport

This is where John came in…
The present situation is that we await the outcome of the Public Inquiry. The Inspector's report is due in April, though it might appear a little earlier than that.
The thinking at the Rochester Airport Consultative Committee (RACC) on which John serves as Medway Council's representative, is that the outcome might not be all that is hoped for by the Airport's operators and their supporters, but a number of contingency plans have been drawn up and the overall feeling is that there should be no significant or sustainable threat to the Airport's continued operation.

Horsted Farm

Another green space under threat is the land at the back of the Mid-Kent College.
Part of that land had protected status as an informal open space so that it would not be developed; but that status was removed very quietly in 1999 by the Labour and Liberal Democrat members of Medway Council at that time. This has only recently come to public notice (does this sound familiar?)
The Liberal Democrats have invited our residents to say whether they want to keep the land as a country park, by means of a petition. They got 60 signatures.
Now, there are at least three reasons why this isn't all that it appears to be:

  1. It's already a Country Park in the Local Plan;
  2. The country park issue is not being pursued at this time to enable funding as a local nature reserve under the Wildspace scheme; and
  3. The LibDems claim to be "overwhelmed" with the response to their invitation for signatories to their petition. They got 60. At the very start of the Rochester Airport campaign John and the Davis Estate Residents' Association got 441 signatures from just the Davis Estate in only a few days. The number of objections to the airport site being kept in the Local Plan for development went well into four figures, and that was done in just a couple of weeks.
We doubt that Horsted residents will be fooled by the LibDems' attempts to gain political credence on this issue: we haven't forgotten their attitude toward the Airport, both originally and very recently. In the meantime, we're monitoring the situation and are ready to act should the need arise. A new action group, ready to tackle any issue impacting on or around the Davis Estate, has also just been formed.

All Change

The boundary review is now effectively complete. As anticipated, the number of Councillors on Medway Council will be reduced from 80 to 55, and there will be just 22 new wards to replace the 35 we have now.
All this will take effect at next year's local elections.
Our ward will be expanded to take in parts of what are now Warren Wood, Hook Meadow and Town wards, just about doubling the population of the ward. There will be three councillors instead of two. Although the original idea was to call our new ward Chatham South, the Conservative group has successfully urged for this to be changed to Rochester South and Horsted.

Care Homes

One example (of many!) of false information put about by the Labour group on Medway Council, is the background to the recent controversy about Care Homes in Medway, and in particular our four Linked Service Centres.
The real problem we have been facing all along was that new legislation by the Government, specifically concerning room sizes and en suite facilities, would originally have meant that some (perhaps all) of the Centres would fail to meet new standards, and other arrangements would have to be made. This was never the wish of any Conservative councillor.
In the event, helped by campaigns not only in Medway but up and down the country, along with a (then) impending General Election, the final version of the Act had these parts either taken out or toned down.
Therefore the existing homes can remain just as they are, which is what the Conservatives then put to the Social Services Committee, to all-party agreement.
This whole issue points up one of our greatest concerns about how central government deals with local issues: State control is effectively eroding local democracy.

A Really Useful Resource

John has recently set up a large website-based resource of Medway Council's political aspects. This shows the members, committees, Cabinet, Full Council, wards with their election results, these newsletters, a schedule of meetings and agendas.
It is kept bang up to date, and is (for example) very useful for checking if a meeting's start time or venue has changed or if the meeting has been cancelled, as has happened several times recently. As most of our meetings are open to the public to attend (despite the usual way in which a "Cabinet" tends to operate) this is a valuable facility. It is John's ongoing gift to Medway.
Now much of this information can be obtained from the Council's own website; but that can easily get out of date (only today John noticed an email link to someone who left the Council's employ over a month ago, and this was someone quite senior!) Some people don't like (don't trust?) what one might call "corporate" websites and prefer something more independent: for these people and others, the following URL is a must:

For Horsted ward, there are a number of other pages including road works, lists of current and decided planning applications, local issues in moderate detail, letters (to the local media) and speeches written by your ward Councillors, Ron and John.
As everyone has access to the worldwide web these days, at home, at work, at a Cyber-Café or (free) at our libraries, it's a great way to keep up with what is going on. Indeed, to avoid dropping lots of bulletins and newsletters on everyone (a waste of forestry when done to excess, as the supposedly environmentally-conscious LibDems do) we intend to produce paper-based flyers and newsletters only sparingly, meanwhile continually updating the website. When something important hits us, we shall of course switch to paper for that purpose.