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'Top down planning does not meet Medway's housing needs' says Lib Dems Princes Park by-election candidate

August 8, 2021 1:02 PM
By john Castle/Alan Wells Medway Liberal Democrats

Housing Liberal DemocratsThe government white paper on the future of planning policy in England states that changes are needed to stimulate housebuilding, without any evidence of how this would work in practice. Top down planning from the centre does not recognize that England is a very diverse country and what is right for one part of the country would be wrong for another.

John Castle, Lib Dems candidate for the upcoming Princes Park by-election said "One of the major problems in Kent & Medway is the lack of genuinely affordable housing. We need homes for local people at prices or rents they can afford to pay. These white paper proposals would make the situation worse. We would be losing precious land to development but still not solving our problem. In the "Changes to the Planning System" consultation, there was also a proposal to raise the threshold to 40 or 50 homes before affordable housing is delivered, this will only exacerbate the existing problem of there not being enough homes built in Medway that local people can afford to rent or buy.

Now there is too much reliance on planning gain to get affordable housing. The way to achieve truly affordable housing, especially social housing for rent, is through government funding. Providing good quality housing that people can afford would make a big difference to the way they lead their lives.

The Government's bill would concrete over the countryside around our towns. I want to keep local planning decisions under the control of local people and the start of a significant push-back from communities on planning and oppose the Government's plans for a new method for assessing housing need that has doubled targets and shifted them towards the South East, where houses are more expensive.

Liberal Democrats support the principle of community empowerment, devolving decision making to the most local level possible. The proposals in the White Paper take away many of the opportunities for Medway and our locally elected representatives to have a final say on how our area develops. We therefore fundamentally object to the underlying premise of this paper, which is to undermine democratic accountability and has undermined the ability of our council and community to shape our area, and to achieve the mixed and balanced development and infrastructure that is needed for Medway

Additionally, the white paper does not offer any solution to the issue of climate change. Local councils across Kent have adopted climate targets and plans to achieve net zero carbon ahead of the government's target of 2050. There is nothing in this white paper to reflect the desire to reduce our carbon emissions.

We are concerned that the paper does not make climate action, carbon reduction or biodiversity a key priority. If the planning system is not able to deliver net-zero developments from the outset, then it becomes an active enabler of the climate crisis in and of itself. Continuing to postpone the requirements for Zero Carbon homes, which would have come into force in 2016 if the current Government hadn't dropped the proposal, along with the suggestion in the Future Homes Standard consultation that councils will not be able to impose their own higher standards, will not help the climate crisis or our commitments to meet Carbon Net Zero.

Overall we are concerned that the proposals will not lead to the increased level of community engagement and participation that is anticipated at the plan making stage. Medway Liberal Democrats stress the right of communities to be heard in any future local plan enquiries.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

John Castle - Princes Park Candidate

John is an experienced campaigner for Medway Liberal Democrats. John has a strong understanding of social justice and campaigned to reinstate a mental health unit in Medway. He is also actively campaigning on a number of issues, including the environment, homelessness issues and campaigning on air quality issues.

John has been a member of the Liberal Democrats since 2011 and has held several positions and is currently the Chair. John has stood for council twice previously in 2015 and 2019.

QUOTE:

"I know first hand that traffic related issues getting in and out of the ward can be a daily challenge for residents. These traffic issues contribute to the air quality issues seen across Medway. I know that the Council can do better on air quality. I believe in and campaign for the protection of greenspaces. The Conservatives are also letting developers have the whip hand. It's time to improve Medway, better is possible."

  • Lived in Medway for the last 15 years, having grown up in Banbury, Oxfordshire

  • Studied computer science at Coventry University, leading to a 25 year career as a software engineer

  • Passionate about music, playing guitar and bass as a hobby. He is a keen traveller and enjoys visiting new countries