The October newsletter from Faversham and Mid Kent MP Mrs Helen Whately is reproduced below. Of particular interest is that Mr Sajid Javid has decided not to “call in” the local plan for Maidstone which means that development at Junction 8 of the M20 is likely to go ahead despite the objections of thousands of local residents, Hollingbourne Parish Council and other Parish Councils, Kent County Council, Leeds Castle, CPRE, Natural England, local MP’s, and many others.
The newsletter from Hollingbourne’s MP is below:
Helen Whately MP: Working hard for Faversham and Mid Kent
It’s good to be back in Parliament after the Party Conference season, which I find disrupts the autumn just when it’s time to be getting on with things. This update includes good news on school funding and longer trains, challenging announcements on housing, and the mixed blessing of a plentiful apple harvest. It’s been a busy time for me with lots going on locally, and new responsibilities nationally as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Justine Greening, Secretary of State of Education.
I’m always interested in your thoughts, so do get in touch by replying to this email – or let me know if you have a problem I can help you with.
No more houses without investment in infrastructure
I was shocked when the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced changes to the planning system which could mean a huge hike in housing targets for this area. This came just days after I had asked him to look into Maidstone’s Local Plan.
For Maidstone these changes mean an increase from 883 to 1,236 more houses a year, for Swale it’s going up from 776 to 1,054.
I spoke to the Communities Secretary immediately after he made this announcement to share my concern about the consequences of growth without the accompanying infrastructure needed.
The housing targets for Maidstone and Swale are already high and the local roads network is under enormous pressure, with congestion becoming the norm rather than the exception. Thousands more houses will see more cars on the road, more children needing places in school and more GPs and health facilities required to meet the vast increase in population.
We do desperately need affordable homes for the next generation. But new housing must be in the right places and accompanied by appropriate investment in infrastructure.
Every secondary school pupil to get £4,800 of funding
With pupils and teachers from The Abbey School, which could get £378,000 more funding under the new formula
I was delighted when Education Secretary Justine Greening announced £1.3 billion of investment in schools. Now we’ve found out more details about how the new funding formula will work. Local schools are getting a 6.4% funding boost under the new, fairer funding formula – that’s a total of £2.7 million more than they would have received under the old formula.
Every secondary school will receive at least £4,600 per pupil next year and £4,800 in 2019-20. High-needs funding for the most vulnerable children is also going up, and there’s support for rural schools.
It will be up to Kent County Council to decide how much each school will get, but indicative figures published by the Department for Education show that Valley Park could be getting 7% more funding and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar could be getting 12.8% more.
No to thousands more lorries thundering through Ospringe, Davington and Oare
There are already too many lorries thundering through Ospringe and Davington, rattling homes and historic buildings and contributing to pollution. If East Kent Recycling’s plans to expand its plant in Oare go ahead, it could mean up to 50,000 trucks a year barrelling along the narrow lanes. So I’m backing campaigners from UPROARE in their fight to stop the plant expanding.
Green space is good for mental health
Living near a green space is good for physical and mental health, but people in the most deprived areas of the country are the least likely to have access to the natural environment.
So I asked the Prime Minister to read a new report which I contributed to, and to take on board its recommendation to consider the environment across Government policy at PMQs
Sajid Javid gives Maidstone Local Plan the go-ahead
I have done everything I can to make the voice of local people heard in the planning process. Ever since I was elected I’ve spoken out against development at Junction 8 and pushed for new housing to be supported by appropriate infrastructure.
I wrote to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, asking him to look into the plan and consider intervening. This was my last chance to have a say and I’m glad I took it.
The Secretary of State has decided not to use his powers to ‘call-in’ the Local Plan. I am disappointed that he has not intervened to prevent development at Junction 8, but I remain adamant that any future building here must be at a size and design that will not harm Leeds Castle.
Work on reviewing the local plan will begin as soon as it is adopted and I will continue to push for Leeds Castle to be protected and for the road network to be improved.
Longer trains will mean more comfortable journeys
Meeting Southeastern representatives at Faversham station
Last year I surveyed rail users about what improvements they’d like to see to the trains. 60% of people said that trains were less comfortable than they used to be, and overcrowding is often a problem at rush hour. So I’m glad that Southeastern have listened to passengers and are adding 68 extra carriages to the busiest routes on the network.
Longer trains will call at Bearsted, Faversham, Harrietsham, Hollingbourne and Lenham. Maidstone East passengers will get more air-conditioned, modern carriages with some peak-time trains doubling in length.
Still, the things people are most frustrated about are late and cancelled trains. I’m going to continue to press Southeastern and Network Rail to improve reliability, and I hope we’ll see tougher penalities in the new franchise.
Seasonal farm workers are welcome in Britain
Standing up for farmers
Apples are spoiling because they have not been harvested quickly enough and soft fruits are being left to fall to the ground unpicked, as farmers struggle to recruit enough seasonal workers.
I have been campaigning for a permit scheme so seasonal workers can come to the UK to work on farms. So I was pleased when Michael Gove told the Conservative Party Conference that: “I think there might well be a case for looking at a seasonal agricultural workers scheme that allows people – whether they are from EU nations or indeed beyond – to come here for a limited period in order to augment the existing workforce.”
I’m confident that helping farmers in Kent recruit the workers they need is a priority for the Secretary of State for rural affairs, and I will continue working to keep this high on the agenda.
Smart ticketing will be rolled out on railways next year as part of an £80 million project. I’ve been calling for this and it’s about time we got modern tickets on the Southeastern franchise, so I welcome this announcement.
You can contact Mrs Whately on firstname.lastname@example.org