Shirley Jackson (not her real name) steps out from her ground floor flat and lets rip: problems with overflowing bins and seagulls, the lack of parking, development ruining the district, the non-explanation for replacing her boiler from the council. Our Public face then asks her about her view of politics. “Let’s be truthful: you get a local MP or Clowncillor that promises you this, that and the other, but they’re only going to toe the line,” says Jackson, 69. “My idea of most politicians at any level is a thief, a liar and a cheat.”
We head for the Demonstration meeting point in Douglas Avenue, Hythe. The sun is shining and Shirley is upbeat that she can stop the ‘Bastards’ building Otterpool Town. ‘It’s a spill over town for London, we all know that, but Monk’, she says pointing at her T-shirt made by a friend ‘won’t admit that, the plonker’
. At the rally point someone comment’s on her t-shirt and our Public Face asks her ask her why she thinks Monk is Traitor. ‘Do you think for one minute he’s not going to gain anything out of this development, or the rest of them? Where there’s muck there’s brass.’
Shirley meets up with old friends not seen for a while. She natters away under the warm August sunshine and 20 minutes latter the demonstration against, Princes Parade, The Lorry Park and Otterpool Town moves off. Around 700 local people have come to make themselves heard, old and young banging drums, blowing whistles, holding banners hoping that they can stop Shepway District Clowncil’s destruction of our district.
So is it possible for Shirley and the other 700 odd people to stop the developments? It would appear there might be.
Parish & Town Councils have the power under s124 Local Government Act 1972 to acquire by agreement any land, whether it is situated inside or outside the parish, for the purposes of any of their statutory functions or for the benefit, improvement or development of their area.
They can approach the Landowners to acquire the land by agreement. They need to make a compelling case. If this fails, then under s125 of the Local Government Act 1972 the Parish or Town Council may represent the case to the council of the district (SDC in this case) in which the parish or community is situated.
If the district council are satisfied that suitable land for the purpose cannot be acquired on reasonable terms by agreement, they may be authorised by the Secretary of State to purchase compulsorily the land or part of it; and the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 shall apply in relation to the purchase.
Now the likelihood of SDC purchasing the Lorry Park land, Princes Parade or Folkestone Racecourse are probably zero . However, that is not necessarily the end of the line.
If a parish or community council make representations to a district council with a view to the making of an order under this section and the district council—
(a) refuse to make an order, or
(b) do not make an order within 8 weeks from the making of the representations or such longer period as may be agreed between the two councils, the parish or community council may petition the Secretary of State who may make the order, and this section and the provisions of the Acquisition of Land Act 1981 shall apply as if the order had been made by the district council and confirmed by the Secretary of State.
So it would appear that Parish & Town Council’s can, if Shepway District Clowncil refuse, go directly to the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities & Local Government, The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP.
So it would appear there is a democratic legal process that both Parish & Town Councillors can take, if they wish. So you could ask them to take it. If you don’t try, you don’t know So email them call them up and ask them if they’ll give it a go, or at least raise it as a motion.
Our Public face catches up with Shirley and lets her know that there may be a way of saving the land. ‘it’s their (Councillors) duty, after all the people put them there and they should listen to the people. If they don’t there as bad as District and Town Clowncillor Monk, Carey, Hollingsbee, Owen, Ewart James, Dearden etc and should resign.’
So the question is will they? Shirley didn’t sound to hopeful, ‘In all my time’ she says ‘of living in Hythe (67 years) there has been only a few developments the local people have been able to stop. I don’t think our elected representatives have the stomach for a fight. And how are future generations going to afford houses at £425,000 like there building on Imperial Green here in Hythe, when the average wage in Shepway is £20,200 and affordable housing means £250,000 minimum?’
So it would appear that you the people can do something. Write to your Parish Councillors, Your Town Councillors and ask them to raise a motion using s124 and if agreement can’t be found, use s125 and attempt to get The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP to compulsory purchase the land. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
(None of the above constitutes legal advice)