Earlier this afternoon, I paid a visit to this consultation for which you can see the full background details in our article published last week. The event seemed to be very well supported, with plenty of residents viewing the maps/plans for the proposed sites and talking to the Councillors and Officials present from Dartford Borough Council about the proposals. Whilst there may well have been people who were not in favour of the proposals, there was certainly no evidence of the outraged neighbours, as suggested previously by a local media outlet.
The messages displayed on posters around the hall put over a pretty clear message from DBC as to the reasons why more Council housing is needed in Dartford:
- There are currently 788 households on the waiting list. They all must have strong Dartford connections, be ex-service personnel or meet one of the very particular characteristics DBC insist upon.
- Some Councils don’t seem to care much about who moves into their properties. Last year, 98% of all the homes were allocated to families with strong Dartford connections. This is not an accident or a coincidence; this is DBC’s policy.
- This isn’t building to line the pockets of private developers. DBC is taking a brave step and building homes for the sons, daughters and grandchildren of people who live here, not those from outside of the Borough. These are local council homes for local families.
- To put it bluntly, DBC are not the sort of Council to be vague or unclear about the people we prioritise for housing; DBC prioritise Dartford people
- DBC wants to build Council housing for Dartford people and because of DBC’s robust allocations policy, the properties built will be for Dartford families.
- If someone doesn’t start building Council housing again, then the gap between those who can afford decent housing and those who can’t, will get wider. DBC are proud to be that someone.
I did get the chance to ask several questions of the Council Officials. I asked whether the land proposed to be built on was already owned by DBC, if there were other sites around the Borough which could have been used or were considered and if so, why Temple Hill had been chosen this time. The response was that DBC do own these sites, there are other sites around the Borough but one of the reasons these particular sites had been decided upon was that they are free from planning constraints, whereas this is not necessarily the case with some of the other sites. The impression I got was that, if there was more money available, similar proposals could be submitted for other sites around the Borough.
I asked who would consider the planning applications when they are submitted; they will go to DBC’s Development Control Board. When I suggested that this could lead to a possible clash of interests, it was pointed out that precedents had been set, such as the redevelopment of Fairfield Pool and the cricket pavilion in Hesketh Park.
The point was made that although these buildings will be on ‘green areas’, there will be a new public park forming part of the nearby Glaxo development. This will actually be larger in size than the three areas now proposed for development on Temple Hill.
Overall, my impression was that the arrangements now being proposed were fair and reasonable. As it appears that there is also cross-party agreement on this, I expect these proposals will be agreed when submitted officially.