The following Newsletter has been received from Councillor Patrik Garten who represents the Hollingbourne area on Maidstone Borough Council. Please Read More.
As I write this, I just returned from A&E where I was examined for mild concussion. I banged my head on my digger while removing an old tree root. I must say that I feel much better today than last Tuesday when I left Town Hall.
About 1/3 of Maidstone had Borough Elections recently. The Conservatives gained three seats and are once again the strongest party. Unfortunately this does not make us the Leading Party nor grants us Leadership. Martin Cox from the Liberals was elected Leader of the Council with the support of Labour and Independents.
Maidstone is run by a committee system of government. Not only doesn’t the committee system assist in NOC (no overall control) situations but it also fails to provide a clear opposition.
Because we don’t have enough members’ votes to provide the Leader, I advocate that we should refuse to chair committees because, in my view, we ought to represent a strong opposition, visible and acknowledged as such by everybody.
Others argue that it can never be a voter’s intention to elect a member to be in opposition. Therefore we should grab as much influence as possible. The promoters of this argument equate Chairmanship of Committees with influence.
My point of view was not universally accepted:
Next municipal year, as in the previous ones, Committees are chaired by either the leading Liberal party, the Conservative party with the most members or by a Labour or Independent supporter of the Liberal Party.
When you read in the local press, that e.g. the Chair of Strategic Planning says: “xyz”, you may wonder:
- Is he speaking merely as Committee Chairman ?
- is he speaking in support of the Liberal / Lab & Ind Leadership ?
- or does he proclaim Conservative policies ?
Are you seeing my point about the lack of a clear visible opposition?
Is it any surprise that the public’s trust in the local authority is badly eroded ? Without clear leadership nor clear opposition, the officers, not the politicians, are firmly in charge at Maidstone BC. The Committee System makes weak / minority administrations even weaker.
For now we will plough on with the Committee System and a NOC Council …
– …my headache is getting worse…..
The decision of 26 April by the Planning Committee was inevitable, based on the given legal grounds. Contrary to popular belief, Planning Committees don’t carry out political functions but they are quasi judicial institutions with the members being akin to elected judges.
The main battle should have been fought by my predecessor, when the harebrained decision was taken to put this site in the Local Plan. By May 2016, when I got elected, it was already a fait acomplis.
26 April 2018 was a mere side-show, albeit this development may continue to hover over the village like a bad dragon. The real legal battle is one of civil law, which is still to come: The question over access rights.
While I am perfectly permitted to file a planning application for anything on anybody’s land, I would ultimately need the landowners’ permission to build on their land. The Windmill Pub, the house next to it and, of course, the village hall all being major stakeholders in this game. At least one party of these, still has the power to stop this development in its track.
The planning committee was neither the beginning nor the end of this saga.
There is however one thing, which bothers me about the planning committee’s decision:
18 months ago I went door to door in another part of the village asking the community about another development. There was one common answer by 90% of all respondents: “we need more affordable housing in the village for our children.”
This need was neither solved by this particular development, nor exhausted by the planning committee.
Without affordable housing the village may die. It will be an assembly of old fogies and commuter dormitories.
Under the current local plan, Windmill Lane will be the last major housing development in Hollingbourne for many years to come. This gives me some comfort, and I’ll be happy to defend the status quo. If however the village and the parish council want more affordable housing, this can be accommodated too. Affordable Housing Developers have already knocked on my door and I believe that in the past proposals were made by the villagers for a site.
Either way, it is vitally important that if any further expansion of the village should ever take place, that it is driven and supported by the villagers. Windmill Lane was not.
The planning committee brought this harebrained idea a decisive step forward. The main thing is now for the community to bury old animosities and work together with all stakeholders to alleviate the forthcoming problems with this site. The bad dragon will continue to disrupt village life for a very long time to come.
BITS & BOBS
I was told that we have a new PCSO ! Daniel.Genn@kent.pnn.police.uk Seeing is believing…. Reports please to ….. – joke aside, please consider taking part in this rural crime survey: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4247493/Rural-Crime-Survey-2018
A trial will be undertaken at Tovil waste disposal site until September : Tuesdays and Thursdays it will stay open until 6.30pm to take household waste.
Let’s hope that this has a positive effect on fly-tipping.
The LGA has revealed that nationally more than £1m a week was spent on clearing up fly-tipping over the past year. The £57m total was a 13% increase on the previous 12 months.
And finally: Councillors appointed Mr Brattle as new Swan Master !
Under a Charter of Queen Elizabeth I, dated 4 Dec 1559, the Queen’s Town of Maidstone was grated liberties in the River Medway, extending from East Farleigh to Hawkwood in Burham. The swans on the River Medway are the property of Maidstone and not the Queen. The Mayor is responsible for the swans, hence the need to ring any Swan found within the designated area.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Court of Survey Cruise. The Council has not had a Swan Master for a number of years since the death of the previous post holder. The role of the Swan Master is to catch and ring the swans during the Court of Survey Cruise (Swan Upping), which will take place this year on Saturday 9 June. The Swan Master is an honorary position and will not receive payment from the Council.
Mr Brattle is the Falconry and Wildlife Manager at Leeds Castle, and Sir David
Steel, Chief Executive of the Leeds Castle Foundation, has nominated him to be
the new Swan Master.
MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward, including Hollingbourne
Pictured below is Councillor Garten.