The Swale Local Plan Examination in Public has now finished. The Council will wait on the Inspector’s report and then there will be further challenging decisions to make.
On the last day, Wednesday 16th December, consideration was given to the transport infrastructure.It is now clear that the Southern Relief Road, which would have connected the A2 and M2 east of Sittingbourne, will not be in the plan. There was also a very strong lobby to remove from the plan any commitment to completing the Northern Relief Road from East Hall to Bapchild. The Council wishes to include an aspiration for the road but without any indication of the route and with only a vague justification for it. Neither the Borough Council, nor the Kent County Council, seem to be able to harness an argument around the Industrial growth to the North East of Sittingbourne, nor the desirability of a link from Sheppey and North Sittingbourne, to the east of Sittingbourne and avoiding the town centre. The pressure to reject the NRR altogether came frpm the CPRE, the Bapchild and Tonge Parish Council, the Five Parishes and from interested developers. They are in a favourable position because of the vagueness of the Council approach.
This is not at all the kind of approach that Labour wants to see, or which a Labour led Council would ever have fostered. In time, it will add to congestion in the Sittingbourne Town centre and it pitiably lets down the people who live in East Hall.
The strategic focus is much more on the A249 corridor, and that is understandable if the Council manages to get 1500 houses built north of Quinton, or if developer opportunities open up in Iwade or around Cryalls Lane. Improvements to the Grovehurst roundabout are a must, along with improvements at Key Street and at Junction 5 on the M2. It is clear that this focus is closely linked to Swale’s intention to see so much of its housing development around this area.
The session was attended by Sittingbourne Labour Councillors Ghlin Whelan and Roger Truelove. The Conservative Councillor for the Meads has been a regular observer but other Councillors in the most affected areas have shown no interest.