Friday, August 04, 2006

Cross Roads Decision Needed

Westwood Cross - Road Infrastructure "an absolute priority" - Roger Gale

Improvements to the main and minor road infrastructure are an "absolute priority" prior to further development at Westwood Cross says North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale.

Addressing what he described as an "interesting and lively" meeting at Manston last (Thursday) night the MP said:

"It is essential that the East Kent Approach Road and the "missing link" in the plans to widen the Haine road are progressed before any further development takes place at Westwood Cross.

Following an much-publicised announcement that "this government will fund the East Kent Approach Road" we now know that phase two of the road is not in the plan until 2010-2015 - which probably means 2015! That is not, of course, what the people of East Kent were led and expected to believe by the Department of Transport.

The link between the Haine Road and the Lord of the Manor junction with the East Kent Approach Road also has to be addressed if we are to resolve the traffic chaos bequeathed to Thanet Council by the previous Labour administration: the fact is that they gave the go-ahead to a shopping centre with no road plan in place and have left the present council and KCC to pick up the pieces.

The Leader of TDC, Sandy Ezekiel, and I have already met with KCC Leader Paul Carter to discuss how the County, as the Highways Authority, although starved of funding by Central Government may use its borrowing power and leverage to bring these vital road schemes forward."

Commenting on plans to build 1000 homes at Westwood over the next ten years the MP said:

"Kent County Council and TDC have done their best to limit the number of housing starts imposed open us by central government and as a result the figure for Thanet stands at 4500  homes, of which 3500 will be built on brownfield sites.

These developments are in the structure plan approved by the Secretary of State and were the subject of consultation commencing in 2000. Our job, now, is to ensure as little environmental impact as possible and to ensure that the roads, water and sewage systems, education and healthcare and public transport facilities, are all in place to meet the needs that will inevitably arrived.

Faced with a government that is determined to build thousands more houses in the South East and a Secretary of State who has indicated that she will impose financial penalties on local authorities that do not deliver I do not believe that to do nothing is an option. It is baying at the moon to believe that a Labour administration would do other than build social housing estates on these sites.

Houses must be built, and affordable housing provided through share-ownership for first-time buyers but we can and I believe will phase the infrastructure improvements and the development to limit the damage.  That is my objective, that is the objective of the Leader of TDC, Sandy Ezekiel and that is the objective of the Leader of KCC, Paul Carter. We are determined to try to make a virtue of necessity and to make sure that East Kent derives the maximum benefit from all the funding that will become available."

Commenting on the views expressed at the meeting the MP added:

"Our main concern in the immediate area has to be for those with homes in Manston Court Road which is already used as a rat-run by heavy vehicles. As the plans move forward there must be the maximum consultation to ensure that any proposals limit the inconvenience and environmental disruption as much as possible"


Anonymous said...

In heaping blame on past local administrations and the present Government, each of which is of course not of his political persuasion, Gale is leaving himself open to the obvious accusation - why did you stand by and let it all happen! Instead of negative and hot-air ranting after the event, perhaps this rather ineffectual MP should try active, positive and timeely engagement in issues. Thanet may be a better place if he did.

James Maskell said...

This is exactly what Thanet residents have been saying on this site. The Government is shoving as many houses as it can in the South East. While I understand that the South East needs an increase in housing to meet the needs of the population, the infrastructure needs to be established first.

Anonymous said...

The Government has merely set the target for new housing. If we are to provide accommodation sufficient to match future population growth, then we need more homes. The target therefore seems unarguable.

Rather than constantly winge about the target, perhaps local authorities should knuckle down and identify sensible locations for growth and then begin to plan and cost the infrastructure. That is their job. I agree with you, Mr Maskell, that that infrastructure planning DOES of course need to happen - to accompany not follow housing growth.

MPs like Gale should lead and not sit on their hands, refuse to engage with authorities of a different political colour, and then wail like a spoiled child "after the event". We need positive and constructive behaviour and input, not people - like Gale - who care little for the aea but just want to make political capital all the time.

Much of this is a County rather than District responsibility, and in that respect we are indeed disadvantaged in Kent by having such a lacklustre County Authority. It is fair to give Carter time to show what he can do, and to what extent he man make up for the appalling Bruce-Lockhart who preceded him. There are other parts of the country where much better progress is being made, in close conjunction with local people.

Whatever, I do think that much more emphasis should be placed on brown rather than green field sites. There are many parts of Thanet that could and should be re-developed before simply expanding on to completely new sites.