For at least the last five years, the most persistent issue raised with me by the people of Maidstone & the Weald has been concern about excessive housing development, particularly when it isn’t accompanied by the required infrastructure. It was at the forefront of my discussions on the doorstep during the recent election campaign and dealing with it remains one of my top priorities for the coming 5-year parliamentary term.
My efforts in encouraging our local authorities to co-operate better on this massive problem has been well documented in this paper. I am therefore greatly encouraged that Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council are now engaging regularly, at the Maidstone Strategic Infrastructure Working Group, over issues including housing development, road infrastructure, schools and health provision. This improved co-operation can only lead to better infrastructure planning and long may it continue.
On that theme the Conservative election manifesto set out a very popular pledge with constituents; to change the planning rules so that infrastructure is implemented before people move into new homes. This must now be a priority for the new Government and I have recently written to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, to follow-up on this commitment.
There comes a point, however, where numbers of new houses are too high and infrastructure, however good, becomes saturated. I believe we are now in that zone. Current targets for housing development in Maidstone Borough are already too high and the forthcoming 40% increase, to 28,000 by 2037, is unthinkable. That is why I have joined with the leaders of all political parties on Maidstone Borough Council to ask the Government to reconsider these housing targets for our part of Kent.
For local people to have confidence in our planning system housing targets must be fair, balanced and achievable. At the moment, frankly, they are not.