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Boris told: We won’t solve London’s housing crisis

Council leader sends message regarding homes shortage

City council leader John Gilbey has issued a defiant cry to London authorities planning to swamp east Kent with tens of thousands of new homes: “Solve your own problems.” The Conservative’s response came after it emerged that a report for the Mayor of London Boris Johnson suggested that Canterbury, Thanet and Dover could take up to 115,000 between them to cope with demand in the south-east. Yesterday (Wednesday), Cllr Gilbey told the Kentish Gazette:

“If the London council need to build houses then they should do that where they are and not just assume councils outside of London will accept them. We think they should solve their own problems. If there are councils on the edge of London which can take them, then so be it. There may be situations where a council such as Thanet could want the new homes where Canterbury would not.”

In the report, it is suggested the three east Kent council districts are ripe for far more homes than they have outlined in their Local Plans. Contained in the Canterbury Local Plan, which is currently being examined by a government planning inspector, is a proposal for 15,600 homes – with south Canterbury, land along the A28 to the east of the city and Herne Bay bearing the brunt. It has attracted widespread criticism, most strongly from campaigners fighting plans for some 4,000 homes on farmland to the south of the city alarmed that it will fill in the green gap between Canterbury and Bridge. Cllr Gilbey fears the London council and the Greater London Authority want to use the precious open spaces in the district.

“About a third of the Canterbury district is registered as areas of outstanding national beauty that’s just below a national park,” he said. “The London councils are looking an area of green space and just deciding they can build homes on them. We can’t have that.”

Cllr Gilbey, who lives in Kingston, is not seeking re-election to the council on May 7, but he has met with the Mayor’s officials and other councils feeling pressure to build new homes. And he is urging those who take over after polling day to work with the authorities in London and the south-east to ease the pressure to build new homes across the region. A major meeting between them Is due to take place between in November. Cllr Gilbey added:

“The crucial thing is that we have got to have a dialogue between all the councils in the south-east. Whatever the backdrop and concern, this is an ideal opportunity to be in at ground level on a ground-breaking process and dialogue to provide analysis and working positions for the whole of the south-east and thereby individual authorities’ decisions incorporating the economy, skills, housing and infrastructure. This exercise will involve an enormous amount of data which will be identified, processed and collated between now and the agreed date for the next meeting in November. It will play an important role in any revisions of our Local Plans in the future, but not now. Local authorities of the south east and east must be involved and active in this great debate.”

After the Mayor of London’s report emerged in March, however, Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael was less defiant. He said:

“If you’re in London trying to get on or up the property ladder, you’re going to look at somewhere like Canterbury, where the cost of mortgage payments plus train ticket is cheaper than in London. There’s significant pressure on our housing market as a result. They have a lot of money and they’re willing to pay more than perhaps someone local is. It pushes the price up. If we allow that to happen and don’t build new houses, it has a negative effect on local people. There’s a strong argument we should build more houses.”

Herne Bay Gazette, April 9th 2015

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