The so called Otterpool-Park-Stage-2-Consultation-Report and Otterpool-Stage-2-Appendix have now been published. A third document: Community-Engagement-Report, has also been released. Please click to view on any of the above.
For the majority of us, it is neither engagement or a document that addresses our real concerns over a proposal to build a commuter town within the area of our villages, thereby destroying our rural lifestyles.
So far, two ‘Community Engagements’ have been carried out to try to win over the hearts and minds of local residents; December 2016 and June of this year. Last June, our entry/exit poll showed that just a handful of residents (1.5%) were in favour of a new town being built, whilst the June Community Engagement showed an increase of a further 1.5% to 3%.
Hardly an endorsement of a project that carries the criteria of being community led. It is clear that SDC have been economical with the truth when they submitted their ‘expression of interest‘ to central government. Indeed, they didn’t even consult with local people on whether we thought it was a good idea. So have SDC been taking money from the public purse under false pretenses to kick start the project, already to the tune of well over a million pounds. And what have their billionaire partners, Cozumel, contributed so far?
The question we should be asking is; why are SDC bothering to engage with our communities when it appears that they couldn’t really care less what we think. Moreover, the Leader, Councillor David Monk, Deputy Leader, Jenny Hollingsbee and Councillor Susan Carey are now refusing to meet residents publicly, aware of the deepening rancor and opprobrium among Residents. The mindset of these three individuals is clear; They’re in the driving seat of the Otterpool steam roller and nothing will stop them, and it’s now clear that if they don’t get the answer they want the first, or second time, they will try, try again. They are devious in the extreme.
The questions posed to residents attending those ‘engagements’ are designed to ‘draw’ you in. For example: How tall do you think the buildings should be, Are play areas important to you for your children or grandchildren etc etc. The answers to these types of questions are being formulated and kept in reserve to be used against us. It gives SDC the evidence to produce at a later date, to DCLG or a planning inspector that ‘consultation’ has taken place and here’s the evidence.
We are all aware on the infrastructure issues that already confront us here in Shepway and beyond: Water, NHS, Sewage, Roads, Air pollution. The threat of a Lorry Park, Waste site, CHP plant, Customs holding area at Stop 24. These are just a few. Then there’s the issue of affordable homes for our young families. SDC use the term ‘affordable’, but affordable for who? Certainly not Shepway residents.
In March 2018, David Monk and one other SDC Councillor or member will be attending MIPIM; tagged as the Worlds biggest property market. Being held in Cannes, Cllr Monk and Co will be hoping to attract developers to invest in Otterpool Park. Investors being investors will say ‘What’s in it for us’, which is fair enough, but what premium will their ‘take’ put on the price of the average house, along with the builders, architect and so forth taking their profit. Would we be naive enough to think that an investor would be looking to invest in affordable or social housing. Would he or she have any idea about the Shepway family struggling on the average salary of a little over £22,000 pa.
The Otterpool project is about money, no more, no less. It’s not the way to build a community and will only serve to destroy the existing and well established communities that we already have and enjoy.