There are moments when Cllrs suffer from amnesia. In fact, they sometimes invent facts which hold no truth in reality whatsoever.
One such example is Cllr Jennifer Hollingsbee (pictured), Leader of the opposition Conservative Group in the current Folkestone & Hythe District Council administration.
At tomorrow’s first Full Council, Cllr Hollingsbee (Con) asks the following question:
On 12 April 2023, all opposition party members at the time (Green, Lib Dem and Labour) voted against the Otterpool Park new Garden Town planning application. Will this project go ahead or will this be cancelled like Princes Parade?
Now for those of you who are not aware, there was no meeting on the 12 April 2023, just a quick check on the Council’s calendar would have informed her of that. Was it the alcohol or was it amnesia that led to her fauz pas? Who knows
But the faux pas aside, what Cllr Hollingsbee (Con) is alluding to is the Special Meeting of the Planning and Licensing Committee which took place on the 4 April. This meeting was called to decide whether or not outline planning permission be granted for 8,500 homes at Otterpool Park. At this meeting which took two hours and thirty five minutes to decide, the then Tory led administration all their supporting Cllrs voted for, while all opposition Cllrs voted against.
Cllr Clive Goddard (Con), Cllr Ann Berry (Con), Cllr Patricia Rolfe (Con), Cllr Tony Hills (Con), Cllr Danny Brook (Ind), Cllr Philip Martin (Ind), Cllr Terence Mullard (UKIP)
Cllr Jackie Meade (Lab), Cllr Nicola Keen (Lab), Cllr John Wing (Green), Cllr Jim Martin (Green), Cllr Gary Fuller (Lib Dem)
Now even though Cllr Hollingsbee got the date wrong, it is a good question, as now the former Opposition groups (Greens, Lib Dem and Labour) are in power and effectively control the Council, what are they going to do about Otterpool?
Otterpool to proceed needs a further £80m cash injection and the Folkestone & Hythe Labour Party were supportive of the Otterpool Park project in their 2023 local election manifesto.
Now this of course is a U-turn by Labour regarding Otterpool Park as they previously said while in Opposition, they opposed the Otterpool Park project.
So exactly where do Labour stand on Otterpool given the contradictory statements, and the fact two Labour Cllrs voted against the Otterpool Planning application? Are they too suffering from amnesia?
But it is not just Cllr Hollingsbee, or the Labour Party who appear to be struck by amnesia. The Greens were opposed to Otterpool Park as well.
Then they, like Labour, the Shepway Green Party did a U-Turn. In their 2019 local election manifesto, they said:
We cannot stop Otterpool and it would be dishonest to pretend that we could. Indeed, the honest truth is that we never said we would… We went into the 2019 local elections clear that we would not state that we could stop the development, but with a promise that we would do all we could to improve the plans for Otterpool, in line with Green principles and policies.
Let’s not forget, the now Leader of our Council, Cllr Jim Martin, Cabinet member for Otterpool Park and Planning Policy, also voted against the the planning application on the 4 April 2023, along with his fellow Green Cllr John Wing.
And the Lib Dems also said they opposed Otterpool Park. There single Cllr on the planning committee, Cllr Gary Fuller, also voted against the planning application on the 4 April 2023.
Then in a post, written by the deputy leader of the Council, Cllr Tim Prater, on 2 June 2023, he stated:
What we have with Otterpool Park currently isn’t quite right. But with some changes, Otterpool Plus can deliver for us: homes, jobs, schools, better roads, better sewage treatment, a million more trees…
Is this another case of amnesia?
The Parish Council’s who are either in the boundary, or next to the boundary of Otterpool Park need clarity on this project. They do not need a Council who play the hokey coke, or who are willing to say what they need to get elected, or who appear to suffer from amnesia.
That aside and moving on, where will the £80m needed to keep the project on track come from? We ask this as there has been significant increases of local government borrowing from the PWLB, with rates for a 25-year annuity loan now on average at 5% compared to a historic average of 2.5%.
Given the Council have a £16.5m deficit and wish to push forward with Ship Street and Bigginswood, is Otterpool a step to far?
Lets not forget former district Cllr, Susan Carey (Con), dared to suggest selling Otterpool, as the Council are “not property developers“
Perhaps as Cllr Carey suggests we should take the money and run.
Personally the Shepway Vox Team and the Sellindge and District Residents Association have made clear from the outset, Otterpool Park is an unwelcome project in our district. This is NOT because either group is opposed to development. It is because, there are serious issues with costs, which to date are in excess of £60m, without a sod being turned. Then there are the infrastructure issues. GPs, roads, etc. Then there is the climate change issue which will affect water, and biodiversity.
Regardless of the U-Turns by all the former opposition parties, and their apparent amnesia of where they once stood on Otterpool, not forgettting Andy Jarrett’s statement that the first house for sale will be the 1 Sept 2025, residents need a clear and definite statement by this new adminstration regarding their intentions for the Otterpool Park project. The sooner the better.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful